BRUNSWICK, Maine — Firefighters from at least 13 communities battled a four-alarm blaze in dangerously high temperatures Friday afternoon in a two-story farmhouse at 246 Coombs Road.
The fire, reported just after 3:30 p.m. and finally determined to be under control four hours later, sent the owner of the farmhouse to Mid Coast Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and a firefighter to a local hospital for heat exhaustion.
Brunswick firefighters went to the home at 3:27 p.m. after reports of heavy smoke in the home’s laundry room, Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant said at the scene.
Brillant said later Friday night that the fire was caused by a problem with a dryer vent.
Efforts to suppress the fire were hampered by the number of additions to the old home and five layers of metal roofing.
Most difficult to overcome, however, was the brutal midsummer heat.
“We have been extremely challenged,” Brillant said. “The first-in crews came out ‘dead-lined’ with exhaustion … The heat is just killing us. We were able to get a bunch of guys inside but it’s an old farmhouse, with fire trapped inside the walls, the ceiling, the attic … the biggest thing here is just … the hot and humid weather. It just zaps the strength of the firefighters … the house is holding a lot of heat.”
After a fourth alarm was called, Brunswick fire put out a special call for additional manpower.
At 5:30 p.m., teams of firefighters continued to rotate through the building, some emerging because of the heat after only 10 minutes to lie in the shade of tall trees in the yard and gulp bottled water.
An hour later, Brillant reported that the majority of the fire had been knocked down but still was not under control because of the layered roof.
“The fire got between each layer, and we’re going to have to peel each layer apart so we can get to this fire,” he said.
Homeowner Jane Abernathy said at the scene that her husband was taken to Mid Coast Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and was expected to recover.
Her husband, who has multiple sclerosis, found the fire and fought it with a fire extinguisher at first, according to Abernathy.
Of the lost contents of their home, she said, “It’s only stuff.”
Crews from Topsham, Bath, Freeport, West Bath, Durham, Lisbon, Harpswell Neck, Cundy’s Harbor, Orrs and Bailey Islands, Yarmouth, Cumberland, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham were on scene.
Departments from as far away as Portland provided coverage for the crews fighting the Brunswick blaze.
Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office, as well as Brunswick police detectives, were on scene throughout the afternoon.