Officials probe fire that claimed lives of elderly Tremont couple

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff
Posted May 28, 2011, at 9:58 a.m.

TREMONT, Maine — Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office were on the scene Saturday morning trying to pinpoint the cause of a fire Friday afternoon that killed an elderly couple.

Eileen Branch, 78, who suffered severe burns in the fire at her one-story home, died Saturday morning at a Bangor hospital. The body of her husband, Edmund Branch, 83, was found in the rubble of the house’s basement Friday afternoon, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Investigators from the fire marshal’s office were on the scene Friday evening and four investigators returned Saturday. According to McCausland, the rubble was still very hot Saturday morning and investigators were unable to inspect the remains.

Investigators have not yet determined what started the fire, he said.

Edmund Branch used commercial baking equipment in the basement of the couple’s home to bake for a local restaurant, McCausland said. Investigators are considering whether the equipment was a possible cause of the blaze, but expect to continue their investigation at the scene on Monday, he said.

Firefighters also were back at the scene on Saturday, according to Tremont Fire Chief Wayne Patton. They had a bulldozer on site to move the rubble around so the firefighters could get water on buried hot spots in an effort to cool down the site for investigators.

The fire was reported by a neighbor at 3 p.m. Friday at the couple’s home on Route 102 in Seal Cove, near the auto museum. Officials said the fast-moving fire gutted the home.

The house was in flames when the first firefighters arrived on the scene.

“The garage was still standing, but you could see [the fire] moving down the hallway to the garage,” Tremont Fire Chief Wayne Patton said Saturday afternoon. “It had such a start on us; it had us beat before we even got started.”

According to McCausland, Eileen Branch was trying to find her husband at the house when the firefighters arrived. She was was severely burned and taken to the hospital by LifeFlight helicopter.

Firefighters from the Tremont Volunteer Fire Department were assisted at the scene by crews from the three other Mount Desert Island towns of Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert and Bar Harbor.

Patton said grief counselors have been made available for the local firefighters who responded to the fatal fire. The department has a procedure in place to deal with this type of situation, he said, and some of the firefighters already have spoken with counselors. Patton said they planned to schedule a full session for all firefighters at some point.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/28/news/hancock/fire-claims-lives-of-elderly-tremont-couple/ printed on July 11, 2014