Investigators say Orrington fire appears suspicious

Posted April 21, 2011, at 11:43 a.m.
Last modified April 21, 2011, at 4:39 p.m.

ORRINGTON, Maine — Investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and local fire officials spent Thursday morning going through debris at the site of a suspicious fire on Center Drive that started late Wednesday and burned into Thursday morning.

“It’s certainly suspicious in nature because there is no power or heat” at the long vacant home that burned to the ground, Assistant Chief Scott Stewart said Thursday shortly after leaving the fire scene.

The fire was reported at around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, and firefighters from six neighboring communities converged on the area to help battle the blaze. The home, owned by Don Simpson, had been empty for years and was filled with used tires.

“Upon my arrival, the first level and half of the second level of the home were completely engulfed in flames,” Stewart said. “There was an attached barn filled with antique auto parts, and the shed had a bunch of old antique stuff.

“We used all our effort to save that, and we were successful in that mission,” he said.

Simpson “was right next door so he was there early on and was able to tell us about the stuff in the barn and how important it was to him,” the assistant fire chief said. “The owner collects that stuff.”

The stored tires gave the fire fuel and created a fast-burning blaze that produced a lot of thick black smoke, Stewart said. That made fighting the fire difficult, he said.

“The first floor of the structure was filled with over 300 tires,” Stewart said.

Since there are no fire hydrants in that area of Center Drive, firefighters had to use half a dozen tankers to haul in water from two miles away. Crews from Brewer, Holden, Eddington, Dedham-Lucerne and Bucksport assisted, and “the sheriff’s department was also on scene helping with the investigative work and crowd control,” he said.

Firefighters left the scene at 12:30 a.m., Stewart said. He met up with fire investigator Ed Archer at the burned house at around mid-morning Thursday to go through the debris looking for a cause.

“He’s still there on scene working on it so I don’t have an update,” fire marshal Sgt. Ken Grimes said at around 12:30 p.m.

The fire looks suspicious, but “they’re trying to rule out some things,” the assistant fire chief said. “There was lightning in the area last night. We have to look at it as being very suspicious, but it may be very difficult to determine the cause.”

Center Drive was closed to vehicle traffic during the fire. No injuries were reported.

“The house is a total loss,” Stewart said. “Only the back wall is standing. That is where we made our stand.”

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