May 20, 2018
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Welding spark ignites blaze that destroys Franklin garage

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

FRANKLIN, Maine — A Main Street resident was working on a jeep inside a garage Wednesday when a stray spark started a fire that eventually consumed the garage and narrowly missed destroying his home.

Firefighters from Franklin, Sullivan, Hancock and Sorrento responded to the fire at 26 Main Street around 1:20 p.m. By the time they arrived, the garage was fully involved, according to Franklin Deputy Fire Chief Brian Abbott.

Abbott said the homeowner, Richard Havey Sr., was braze welding in the garage when the interior and seat of the jeep caught fire. Havey initially tried to put out the flames himself, Havey said, but the man’s brother and son noticed the smoke and called the fire department.

“The vehicle was the initial fire,” the deputy fire chief said. “In an enclosed space like that, the vehicle — with all the plastic and everything — gets going very fast.”

The garage was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived, Abbott said, and the vinyl siding at Havey’s home had begun to melt.

The construction of the garage made it unlikely the structure could be salvaged, Abbott said, and the roof had already begun to collapse. So firefighters focused on preventing the fire from spreading to Havey’s home.

“We concentrated on getting water on the house, since that was starting to get very hot,” Abbot said. Firefighters used thermal imaging devices to ensure there was no heat trapped in the residence, then began extinguishing the blaze in the garage.

Brian Clement, Sorrento’s assistant fire chief, was on scene and said the vinyl siding likely helped prevent the house from catching fire.

“The good thing is, vinyl melts before it ignites,” he said.

Main Street between the Franklin Town Office and Havey’s home was closed for about an hour and a half, with firefighters redirecting traffic to alternate routes. The fire was cleared by about 3:40 p.m., Havey said, and the road was reopened.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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