May 22, 2018
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Electrical problem eyed as cause of Winterport fire

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

WINTERPORT, Maine — A family with six children is without a home after a fire Sunday that may have been the result of an electrical problem.

The decisive actions of a 10-year-old boy were credited for his siblings’ quick exit from the burning building at 1 Pine View Drive. Samantha Dillman, who was babysitting the children when the fire broke out at about 1 p.m., said the boy was the first to notice something amiss.

“He said ‘it looks like there’s smoke in here,’” said Dillman of 10-year-old Dakota. “At first I thought there was a cigarette in the trash, but then I realized the smoke wasn’t coming up. It was coming down.”

While Dillman herded four of the children out of the house — ages 3, 4, 7 and 8 — Dakota grabbed the youngest, a 17-month-old baby. By the time they got outside, Dillman said she turned around and saw thick black smoke pouring from the second floor of the building, which is owned by Billy Joe Rancourt.

Dillman called 911 on a cell phone while a neighbor stepped in to help get the children away from the burning building. Dillman estimated that the first fire crew arrived within about five minutes.

“Then I called Samantha and told her her house was on fire,” said Dillman of her friend, Samantha Rancourt.

Winterport Fire Chief Thomas Doe said he and others had just disbanded a training session when the fire was reported, which was part of the reason they could respond to the scene so quickly.

Doe said he found heavy smoke and damage coming from the second floor when he arrived. The smoke and confusing configuration of the second floor made it difficult to find the fire, said Doe. Crews sprayed the blaze for about 90 minutes before it was fully extinguished. Crews from Frankfort, West Frankfort, Monroe and Newburgh assisted at the scene or were on standby.

Doe said an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s office was at the scene Sunday afternoon searching the site and interviewing witnesses in an attempt to pinpoint a cause, though he suspected that faulty electrical wiring in an upstairs bedroom was the culprit. Doe did not know if the Rancourts had insurance on the house.

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