HAMPDEN, Maine — A two-story home at the end of a mile-long private, dirt road on the outskirts of Hampden burned to the ground Sunday afternoon as the fire was discovered too late for fire crews to save it.
“I live nearby and was here within 10 minutes, and I think our department was here in 15,” said Hampden Fire Department Lt. Dan Pugsley. “When I got here, the entire front wall was fully on fire and flames were starting to come out through the back windows, so it had already spread out throughout the interior of the house.”
Pugsley said the cause of the fire was unknown. Neighbors said the owner and sole occupant of the home at 1391 Kennebec Road was Aaron Snowman, who was not home at the time of the fire. Pugsley said a dog was found at the scene, but it was unclear if the dog was Snowman’s pet.
Neighbors noticed the strong smell of smoke and called 911 after discovering that the two-story, raised ranch house with a walkout and basement was fully engulfed around 3:15 p.m.
The location of the home, which sits at the end of Merchant Road, a narrow, winding dirt road about one and a half miles long, presented a number of challenges for fire crews.
“I’d have to measure, but I think this is 10 to 12 miles away and pretty much the furthest location in Hampden from our station,” said Pugsley. “There are no hydrants, so we had to rely on tank trucks and had to run a lot hoses.”
Fire personnel and trucks from five different departments were requested and went to the blaze. Hampden responded with both engines, a brush truck and two ambulances. Hermon sent an engine and a tanker, Bangor an engine, Dixmont sent a tanker, and Newburgh an engine and a tanker.
“We have a pumper here which holds 750 gallons of water and pumps 100 gallons per minute, and we still went through it relatively quickly,” Pugsley said. “It took us awhile to get extra water, as remote as this location is, but it wouldn’t have made a difference, unfortunately, because the fire was so far advanced.
“It wasn’t even discovered initially. A neighbor finally called it in when they started smelling it. It’s so far into the woods you couldn’t see it, especially in the daylight.”
The road was almost too narrow for some trucks to get all the way to the scene, and was muddy and soft in places.
Crews had the fire under control within a half hour and almost totally out within an hour, but there were still other dangers.
“We also had some spot fires break out in the woods so we’ve had some crews out around this site. That was our biggest focus; to keep this from running into the woods,” Pugsley said. “Fire danger is so high right now, we couldn’t afford to let it run into the woods and get into other structures around here.”