PATTEN, Maine — Firefighters from six fire departments rallied to the scene but could not prevent an auto body shop on Houlton Street from being destroyed by fire early Thursday, volunteer Fire Chief John Roy said.
Firefighters received a 911 call about the fire at about three minutes past midnight and took only a few minutes to travel the mile’s distance to Patten Auto Body at 292 Houlton St. However, when the first firefighters arrived, they immediately saw that the two-bay garage building and attached office were beyond saving, Roy said.
“It was fully involved. The roof had already collapsed in and the fire was roaring,” Roy said Thursday.
No one was injured fighting the blaze, but shop owner Claude Ouellette, whose home is behind the shop, was taken to Millinocket Regional Hospital where he was treated for chest pains, Roy said.
Ouellette could not be reached for comment. Telephone calls to his residence could not be completed.
Patten’s volunteer firefighters used their compressed foam system to attack the fire while working to protect nearby structures. They had assistance from firefighters from Island Falls, Oakfield, Stacyville, Sherman and Mount Chase, Roy said.
The firefighters shuttled water via tanker truck from a hydrant about a half-mile away and rotated through manning hose lines to keep themselves from getting exhausted. The bulk of the fire was knocked down within a half hour or so, but the cleanup kept firefighters on scene until about 2 a.m., Roy said.
“It was a good knockdown,” Roy said. “The foam machine worked really well. We had it [the fire] under control pretty quickly.”
But he said he knew before he left his home on Shin Pond Road that firefighters would face a difficult fight.
“I could see the glow in the sky from this fire so even before I got to the station, I had all these departments rolling,” Roy said.
An investigator from the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office will be on-scene today, Roy said, but Roy didn’t think the fire was necessarily of suspicious origin. As an auto-body repair shop, the building contained many flammable items, such as paints and other solvents, and it also had welding torches.
A fire could have smoldered in the building for hours before bursting into flames or could have ignited quickly from the chemicals stored there, he said.
Also, Ouellette’s view of the property was probably obscured by the dark of night and the thick line of trees between the building and his home, so he might not have seen evidence of a fire in its early stages, Roy said.
Roy said he did not know whether the building was insured or had fire alarms or suppression systems.
Ouellette, he said, is semi-retired and only takes in auto-body work occasionally.