Fire hits Pittsfield family for second time on a holiday

No one was home Sunday morning when fire swept through this home at 950 Main St. in Pittsfield. The owner, Mike Westgate, was in Massachusetts enjoying the Easter holiday with family members at the time of the blaze.
BDN Photo | Christopher Cousins
No one was home Sunday morning when fire swept through this home at 950 Main St. in Pittsfield. The owner, Mike Westgate, was in Massachusetts enjoying the Easter holiday with family members at the time of the blaze.
Posted April 24, 2011, at 1:02 p.m.
Last modified April 24, 2011, at 7:18 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — A home on outer Main Street in Pittsfield was severely damaged in a blaze early Easter morning, marking the second time in two years that fire has struck the Westgate family of Pittsfield.

The home at 949 Main St., which is about a mile from downtown Pittsfield, had severe heat and smoke damage but is salvageable, said Pittsfield Fire Chief Bernard Williams. The owner of the home, Michael Westgate, was not home when the blaze was reported by a neighbor at 5:42 a.m. Westgate is a long-haul trucker. His girlfriend was in Massachusetts with family at the time of the fire, according to his brother Jason Westgate, who lives next door at 951 Main St.

“Nobody was hurt, but it’s pretty gutted,” said Jason Westgate. “We’ll just have to see what happens when my brother gets here. It’s definitely another bad holiday for us.”

Sunday’s fire marked the second time fire has marred a major holiday for the Westgates. On Thanksgiving 2009, Jason Westgate and his girlfriend were at his brother’s house — the house that burned Sunday — when they noticed smoke coming from their home next door. That fire caused severe damage, though Jason Westgate is now in the final stages of rebuilding his home. He said the cause of the fire at his home was an electrical problem.

Williams said Sunday’s fire had been burning for a while before firefighters arrived and that the heat inside the building was intense. The flames were confined mostly to an area below and around the kitchen.

“The light switches were melted right out of the walls half the length of the house away, and that takes a bunch of heat,” he said.  “There was combustion of articles where there was no flames impinging on the area.”

Williams estimated that based on that evidence, it might have been as much as 2,000 degrees in the home before the windows blew out.

The home is insured.

“The sheetrock worked real well, and the fire didn’t get into the roof structure,” said Williams.

Jason Westgate said firefighters told him they suspected an electrical malfunction as the cause of the fire. Williams said an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was coming to the scene Monday.

Mike Westgate owns dogs, but his brother said they were being boarded while Westgate was away.

On Tuesday, fire crews fought another fire about a half-mile up the road at 1044 Main St. That home, which was unoccupied, was destroyed. Williams said the investigation into that fire is ongoing, but that an electrical problem had been ruled out.

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