ENFIELD, Maine — William “Larry” Tozier wanted to make some money plowing snow Thursday, but his pickup truck needed brake fluid, so he went to Thompson’s Hardware in Howland to get some. When he returned, his garage was on fire, his brother said.
Firefighters from Burlington, Howland, Lincoln, Passadumkeag and Seboeis fought the fire and blizzard-like conditions but couldn’t keep the flames from destroying the Tozier family’s 1½-story house at 91 Old County Road, Fire Chief Phil Dawson said.
No injuries were reported. The garage was burned to the ground and the house, though left standing, is a total loss, Dawson said.
The family’s three dogs were saved, but William Tozier’s daughter, Penobscot Valley High School senior Danielle Tozier, said she feared that two family cats and several of her mother’s birds were killed.
“My brother said it happened around the wood stove in the garage. He lit the stove before he left and came back from the store and saw the kindling around the stove on fire,” said Ed Tozier, Larry’s brother, on Thursday.
The fire was reported at 1:43 p.m. with Howland firefighters the first on scene at 1:57 p.m. They saw flames roaring inside the garage, smoke pouring from under the two bay doors, and flames beginning to burn into the attached home, Dawson said.
Firefighters tried interior attacks but Dawson twice had firefighters’ sound their trucks’ air horns, at 2:30 p.m. and again at 3 p.m., signaling attack teams to evacuate the building immediately — a sign that the building was doomed. By 5 p.m., they were doing what they could to salvage items from the house.
“This is a house that has been added onto several times, and with the roof starting to sag, I had concerns about safety,” Dawson said. “The fire got into the walls and ceiling and apparently there weren’t too many fire stops built into it to hold it back.”
Firefighters had a worker from King Brothers Trucking, which is next door to the Toziers’ house, use a backhoe to peel away sections of the house’s metal roof so they could douse flames from outside the building.
Snow wasn’t falling when the fire began but was coming down heavily by 3 p.m. “It wasn’t a factor at first, but it sure is now,” Dawson said at the scene.
The snowstorm made for odd conditions — smoke that hugged the ground and billowed around the firefighters like clouds as the wind changed directions.
Ed Tozier and King Brothers workers said that William Tozier might have tried to douse the flames or carry the burning kindling from the building before calling 911. Garage workers tried to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher before firefighters arrived, company owner Phil King said.
“Because of that stove, everything in there was dry, very dry,” Ed Tozier said.
William Tozier is a disabled retiree, a 65-year-old retired U.S. Navy Seabee who has lived at 91 Old County Road with his wife, Joan, for more than 30 years, said Ed Tozier, who believes his brother has fire insurance and would be staying with him or other relatives.
“It sure didn’t take long,” Tozier said of the fire. “They lost everything. He never even got out with a jacket or a pair of shoes.”