SULLIVAN, Maine — A fire that significantly damaged a small home on Route 1 Thursday appears to have started when a man living in the home tried to thaw out some water pipes that had frozen overnight.
The fire was reported around 10:30 a.m. at a house within a few dozen yards of Sumner Memorial High School. Firefighters from multiple towns were paged out to help fight the blaze, sending trucks that blocked the highway in front of the school. As a result, Route 1 was shut down to traffic for approximately four hours while firefighters fought the blaze.
Sadie Rodgers, who lives on the opposite side of Route 1 from the high school, said her neighbor, Wyatt Boynton, lives in the home that caught fire. He was trying to thaw out the pipes with a heater, she said, but the heater caught part of the house on fire.
Boynton, his girlfriend and their 1-month-old son then fled across the street with their two cats to Rodgers’ house and called the local fire department from there, she said.
“They are a working family,” Rodgers said. “They work hard, and it’s really sad.”
Mike Pinkham, safety officer for the Sullivan Fire Department, said Thursday afternoon that department officials have not determined that the heater, which was outside the home pointed at an exterior wall, was the cause of the fire. Boynton also had heat tape on the pipes, he said, which could have malfunctioned somehow.
Pinkham said the state fire marshal’s office is expected to send an investigator to the scene Friday to see if the cause can be determined.
Pinkham said the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross has contacted Boynton to offer assistance. He said he did not know what kind of arrangements were being made but that Boynton has lots of friends and family in the area.
Firefighters were able to save some of the baby’s clothing and diapers, but nothing else, Pinkham said. The interior of the home, which Boyton was renting from his employer, was gutted, he said. He added he did not know if the home is insured.
“For the most part, it’s a complete loss,” the firefighter said.
Only some of the multiple pumper trucks at the scene had problems with freezing water, according to firefighters. A fire hydrant nearby in front of the high school enabled firefighters to keep a steady flow of water on the burning home, they said.
Other towns that sent firefighters and trucks to the scene included Franklin, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Sorrento and Winter Harbor.
According to Rodgers, a benefit supper to raise funds for Boynton and his family is expected to be arranged sometime in the near future.
Pinkham said anyone who might want to make donations to help the victims can call the local fire department at 422-3220 or the Sullivan town office at 422-6282.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.