Dual fires on same day, same road spark investigation

Posted July 07, 2010, at 6:32 p.m.

CANAAN, Maine — The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating two fires that happened on the same road in the same town on the same day, with no one home at either residence.

Whether those facts constitute a coincidence or something else is the question at the center of the investigation, according to Sgt. Ken Grimes of the fire marshal’s office.

“A small community with two fires on the same day like this is something that we would certainly look at to see if they’re connected,” said Grimes. “At this point I don’t know if we’ve drawn any conclusions.”

The first fire was reported at 2:09 a.m. Monday at 194 Nelson Hill Road in Canaan, according to Canaan Fire Chief Ray Small. The first crews to arrive found the mobile home in flames. With the help of personnel from Skowhegan and a tanker truck from Clinton, the fire was extinguished relatively quickly, said Small. The home, which was being rented by Anne Jenness, was a total loss.

The second call, about a half-mile from the first, came at 10:06 p.m. Monday and required personnel from eight towns. The roof and upper floor of a log cabin at 298 Nelson Hill Road had already caved in when crews arrived. Utility lines had collapsed across the driveway and flames were beginning to spread into nearby woods, said Small.

“I just wanted to drown it as quick as I could,” he said. “I immediately called for mutual aid, and we had it under control within half an hour.”

Because of the broken utility lines, firefighters and equipment had to be shuttled through nearby woods and a small field to fight the blaze. The home, which is owned by Victor Hartley, was a total loss. Firefighters from Skowhegan, Cornville, Clinton, Burnham, Pittsfield, Hartland and St. Albans assisted at the scene.

Both homes had been empty for at least two days because the residents were traveling for the holiday weekend. Neither Small nor Grimes would speculate on the causes of the fires because of the ongoing investigation. Small said he calls in state investigators whenever a fire happens at an unoccupied residence.

Grimes said the damage to the home at 298 Nelson Hill Road was too severe to pinpoint a cause, though the investigation continues. The other investigation is in the process of being reassigned because of a medical leave by an investigator.

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