WINTERPORT, Maine — Kyle Stoops was busy on Tuesday afternoon cleaning and preparing his Twining Road house for a Christmas visit from his daughter when he heard his husky sled dogs barking outside.
They probably were trying to warn him that his house was on fire.
Stoops went out just before 2 p.m. to check on the barking canines, which are kenneled near his back tree line.
“I was walking back and I saw smoke coming from the back end” of the house, he said as he watched firefighters from Winterport, Hampden, Frankfort Village and West Frankfort try to extinguish the flames eating through his home.
After seeing the smoke he started to run toward the house and used his cell phone to call 911.
By the time he ran though the field and reached his house, “it was completely ablaze,” Winterport Fire Chief Thomas Doe said. Tuesday’s high winds acted like a fan on the flames, he said.
Stoops entered the burning house and retrieved two items.
“I went in and got a picture sitting on an easel in the front entryway and grabbed my grandpa’s gun,” he said, still visibly shaken from the shock of watching his home burn.
The homeowner wanted to go back in but “there was too much smoke,” he said. “And Richard on the Fire Department was on the phone telling me to get out.”
The framed picture is “one of me and my kids,” Stoops said, adding the gun is a .30-30 Winchester John Wayne commemorative rifle that his now-deceased grandfather owned. It was passed down to him through his family and has sentimental value, he said.
Twining Road is located off Back Winterport Road about half a mile after passing the Hampden-Winterport town line.
When firefighters arrived, flames could be seen along the backside and in an addition to the main house.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but “it started up in the master bedroom,” Doe said. “The original house has got a lot of water damage and smoke damage, but the main part of the house, I think, is salvageable.”
Firefighters from departments in Hampden, West Frankfort, Frankfort Village and Prospect joined the 16 from Winterport in fighting the blaze, and Newburgh Fire Department provided a portable cascade truck to refill air tanks.
No injuries were reported but firefighters did find cold-blooded animals inside the house that needed rescue, Doe said.
“He did have three snakes in the house,” he said “We lugged them out of there.”
One of the three boa constrictors was not happy about being moved, Doe said.
“Two were taken out [by hand] and put into a plastic carrier and we took the last [unhappy] one out in its case,” he said.
Stoops said he had spent most of the day cleaning and doing laundry in preparation of a holiday visit from his daughter, who lives in Indiana.
As he watch the nearly 40 firefighters work to save his home, he was comforted by friends and neighbors who offered hugs and a shoulder when he needed it. Stoops said has insurance.
“I don’t know what I am going to do,” he said. “I guess I should call my insurance company.”
Shortly afterward, he could be seen on his cell phone making calls.