SOUTH THOMASTON, Maine — A man who was squealing his tires by pressing his feet simultaneously on the brake and gas pedals until his truck caught fire also caused a building to go up in flames, according to fire officials.
Lance McLain, 43, of Owls Head, who suffered minor injuries in the Monday incident, has been charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants and violating his bail conditions. He is being held in Knox County Jail on $500 cash bail.
The district attorney’s office is reviewing the State Fire Marshal Office files on the case and deciding whether further charges are warranted.
“It’s classified as power braking,” South Thomaston Fire Chief Bryan Calderwood said about McLain’s alleged activity. “He was doing that and he was doing it within five feet of Island Auto; that [building] is a total loss.”
The vehicle caught fire, which spread to the garage, according to authorities.
“His excuse was that he was having problems with his vehicle,” said Detective Sgt. Reggie Walker with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department. “He revved his engine so much that the engine compartment caught fire, we suspect.”
Walker said McLain, who used to be a mechanic at Island Auto, got out of his truck and went to a nearby store after revving the engine and squealing his tires. By the time he returned, his truck was on fire and flames had spread to the garage.
Approximately 60 firefighters manning 10 firetrucks were able to save the attached automotive paint shop, two vehicles in the building and a few local businesses, according to Calderwood.
The owner of the garage, Matt Gray of Spruce Head, said his insurance agents are checking out the paint shop and the vehicles, which all were damaged.
Gray could not estimate the cost associated with the fire damage.
The firefighters fought flames from 7 until 11 p.m. and used more than 13,000 gallons of water.
“It was an old building; it went up pretty quick,” Walker said. “There were several small explosions in the fire” caused by chemicals stored in the garage.
McLain had minor injuries, including smoke inhalation, and was taken to Penobscot Bay Medical Center.
South Thomaston, Rockland, Thomaston, Saint George and Owls Head fire departments went to the fire, as did South Thomaston and Saint George ambulances, in addition to Maine State Police, the county sheriff’s office and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
“Considering the weather — it wasn’t freezing — all my guys did an excellent job saving the paint shop and we did conserve,” Calderwood said. “We did a quick stop of the fire.”
Gray said he is not sure if he will rebuild the garage.
“We’re waiting to see what they charge him with,” Gray said, referring to McLain. “If he has insurance, I want to see what I can get out of him.”
Gray rented the garage to a man who he said is now out of work. Gray’s store, The Sea Store at 20 Island Road in South Thomaston, is taking donations for the now unemployed mechanic.
Lance McLain was charged with assault, refusing to submit to arrest or detention, disorderly conduct and driving to endanger in April 2009. He also was charged in 1991 with unnecessary noise with a motor vehicle and several other minor crimes.