DEDHAM, Maine — Monday night’s lightning storm prompted Upper Dedham Road resident Deborah Gray, who was home alone, to go down to her horse barn and shut off the electric fence.
While heading out to the barn, “I could see a glow,” she said. She opened the barn’s door and a wall of hot, fiery air hit her in the face.
“It was just like I got burned with hot water,” said Gray, who owns the farm with her husband, Mike.
Dedham Fire Chief Frank Myatt said Gray was fortunate she did not get hurt. When the barn doors opened, the incoming air fueled the fire, he said.
The air made “it take off like a shot,” Myatt said. “She was very lucky the horses were all right and nobody was hurt.”
The fire initially was deemed of questionable origin, but an investigation Tuesday morning determined there was “nothing suspicious at all. Zero,” the fire chief said.
Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said investigators have determined the fire was accidental.
“It was an electrical malfunction of the barn’s electrical system,” he said. “It was not suspicious.”
A floor outlet apparently caught a stack of dry hay bales on fire, Gray said a fire investigator told her.
After opening the barn door and seeing the fire, Gray immediately went into action.
“That’s when I turned around and tried to get the horse” that was tied to a nearby tree free, she said.
After frantically untying the horse, named Mick Mick, she led him up to the house and called 911. Three other horses were in the fenced area and Gray worried they would run into the burning barn, but they stayed away.
Firefighters arrived within minutes of her 10:20 p.m. emergency call.
“It was fully involved” when firefighters arrived, said Capt. Craig Shane of the Dedham Fire Department.
The 30-by-30-foot barn, which housed the four horses and a piglet that Gray’s grandson caught at a pig scramble a few weeks ago, was located more than 200 feet from the family’s house. The horses are owned by the Gray’s daughter, Erica Gray.
“All four horses survived,” but the young pig was not so lucky, Shane said.
The property is located just around the corner from the fire station, but the home is not visible from the road.
Local crews were assisted by eight firefighters from Holden, eight from Ellsworth, and four from Eddington, Shane said.
No one was injured in the fire, Shane said. The blaze was knocked down relatively quickly, but Dedham crews remained at the scene for hours to ensure that all hot spots were extinguished, Shane said.
“We cleared the scene sometime after 1:30 a.m.,” he said.
Gray thanked the fire crews, saying they did a wonderful job. She said she has never been in a fire before and was still shaken by the experience.
“It’s a mess,” Gray said of her horse barn. “I don’t want to look at it.”