Waltham fire displaces young couple with children

Posted April 06, 2012, at 6:05 p.m.
Last modified April 06, 2012, at 7:06 p.m.

WALTHAM, Maine — Fire investigators were unable Friday to determine the cause of a blaze that destroyed a Waltham trailer on Thursday evening, displacing a young couple with children and killing several family pets.

Firefighters quickly arrived at the scene — located on Route 179 about halfway between Ellsworth and Route 9 — not long after the fire was reported after 6 p.m. Thursday. But the flames had already engulfed the trailer, Waltham Fire Chief Robert Butler said Friday afternoon.

“It was fully involved,” Butler said while standing near the burnt-out remains of the trailer. “The whole structure was gone.”

The young couple and children who were living in the home were not there at the time of the fire, however Butler said several of the family’s dogs were killed while one or more cats were missing. The fire also destroyed an SUV parked near the trailer.

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Sgt. Tim York with the fire marshal’s office said Friday evening that the extent of the damage prohibited investigators from determining the cause of the fire.

York said the couple, identified as Allan and Shawna Morse, were renting the trailer from Patrick Jordan. Butler said he contacted the Red Cross but that he believes the Morse family was staying with relatives in the area.

Ed Archer, senior investigator with the Maine fire marshal’s office, was on scene Friday afternoon, sifting through what little remained of the trailer and its contents to try to determine what may have sparked the fire.

Butler estimated that it took firefighters about 45 minutes to get the blaze under control, although they remained at the site for several hours afterward mopping up. But the situation could have been much worse had the winds been blowing in the other direction.

The fire struck on a day when the National Weather Service and the Maine Forest Service had issued a “red flag warning,” meaning high winds, low humidity and dry conditions were creating particularly dangerous conditions for wildfires.

The trailer was set back from the road on a wooded lot with trees very close to the structure, and the nearest water source was more than 2 miles away.

Fortunately, the wind was blowing toward the road and the blueberry barrens on the other side of Route 179. Had the winds been blowing into the woods, Butler said, firefighters might have been dealing with a large woods fire, too.

Crews from the Eastbrook, Franklin, Aurora and Osborn fire departments helped battle the blaze.

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