Winterport man burned in grease fire at home

A firefighter rehydrates, left, as crews from numerous stations work a structure fire at 20 Kaler streeet in Winterport on Saturday.
A firefighter rehydrates, left, as crews from numerous stations work a structure fire at 20 Kaler streeet in Winterport on Saturday.
Posted April 30, 2011, at 6:12 p.m.
Last modified May 01, 2011, at 2:06 p.m.

WINTERPORT, Maine — A kitchen grease fire was the apparent cause of a fire on Saturday that badly damaged a home in Winterport village and sent homeowner William Gillway to a Bangor hospital with burns.

According to Kaler Street neighbor Steve Taylor, Gillway ran into his front yard at about 3:45 p.m. asking Taylor for a fire extinguisher. By the time Taylor and his wife arrived in the kitchen with two fire extinguishers, the fire was climbing the kitchen wall and burning into the ceiling.

Gillway, his wife, Patricia, and Taylor and his wife spent several minutes trying to contain the flames but quickly realized the fire was out of control and got out of the house, Taylor said.

“It went up fast, really fast,” Taylor said. “They didn’t get anything out.”

Taylor said that the couple had two cats and that another neighbor had reported seeing both creatures safely leave the house.

The Winterport fire station is just around the corner. Firefighters arrived on the scene about three minutes after the call came in and found the kitchen already in flames, according to Fire Chief Thomas Doe.

Because of the older construction of the home, Doe said, “there was nothing to stop that fire from going right straight up [inside the wall] into the attic … it just took off and roared.”

Emergency crews from Winterport, Hampden, Newburgh and Frankfort responded to the call, connecting to a fire hydrant at the top of the short street. At about 5 p.m., thick black smoke was churning out of the upstairs windows and from along the roofline of the house as firefighters moved in and out of the still-burning structure.

About an hour after the fire started, it reached some stored ammunition in the front of the house.

“There was quite an explosion,” Doe said, but fortunately no one was injured.

Gillway suffered burns to his arms while attempting to remove the burning grease from the home and was taken by ambulance to a Bangor hospital. His condition was not available on Sunday.

A live electrical wire had burned off the front of the house and fallen to the ground earlier, sending out sparks and explosions, according to an onlooker.

The house, a neatly kept, 2½-story clapboard home built in the late 1800s and painted dark green, is likely a total loss, Doe said Sunday. He did not know whether it was insured.

Doe said too many homes are badly damaged or lost when homeowners spend precious minutes attempting to put out fires on their own. He said the most important thing people can do when a fire starts is to get out of the home and call 911.

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