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Investigators probe explosive fire that destroyed Grindstone cabin

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Investigators are working to determine what started the fire that destroyed a cabin in Grindstone on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2012.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

GRINDSTONE, Maine — A fire that destroyed a cabin early Saturday on Grindstone Road, and was initially reported as an explosion, is being investigated by the state fire marshal’s office and police, officials said.

The cause of the fire is listed as undetermined and under investigation, Sgt. Tim York of the Maine fire marshal’s office said in a brief statement. He did not immediately return a message left Sunday seeking further comment.

No one was injured in the fire, and the camp’s occupants were not there, but might have been earlier in the day, East Millinocket firefighters said.

A 911 call reporting the fire came in at about 12:07 a.m. with neighbors reporting that they had heard an explosion. When the first firefighters arrived around 20 minutes later, the roof of the one-story structure had collapsed and flames were demolishing the rest of the building, firefighters said.

East Millinocket fire Capt. Peter Larlee, the ranking officer at the scene, said he found nothing immediately suspicious about the fire.

“Buildings like that are out there on their own. The fire can spread quick and go a long ways before anybody knows. To pull up and find the roof down isn’t really that abnormal for that area,” Larlee said. “To ride up on a fire [burning] like that in the middle of East Millinocket would be unusual, but up there somebody rides by probably once every few hours.”

Twelve Medway Fire Department firefighters and two tanker-trucks assisted the East Millinocket firefighters who covered the blaze, Medway Fire Chief John Lee said. Five East Millinocket firefighters responded. Both towns cover Grindstone through contract or by mutual-aid agreement.

It was unclear whether the explosion ignited or resulted from the fire. Penobscot County sheriff’s Deputy Mike Knights is assisting fire marshals in the investigation. He did not immediately return a telephone message left Saturday morning.

Possibly driven by high winds, the fire flared again later in the day, Lee said.

Firefighters had to ask police to run license plates on vehicles at the camp to identify the cabin’s owner, Larlee said.

The Grindstone Road property had been put up for sale about a month ago, said real estate agent Alice Weed, who is handling the sale effort. Neighbor John Coon was among several on Saturday who said they hadn’t seen or heard anything until they awoke that morning, hours after the fire.

The owner, Coon said, “did a lot of work on it [the property] over the summer,” apparently hiring a contractor. The work appeared to make a huge improvement on what was a somewhat dilapidated structure, he said.

Given the struggling real estate market in the Katahdin region, it would have been “a tough sale,” Weed said, “but not impossible. It was a nice house.”

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