STETSON, Maine — A 9-year-old boy heard crackling in the walls of a Mullen Road home early Friday morning and warned his family, enabling them to get out safely before fire caused the roof to collapse.
Fire crews from nine towns battled the blaze at the house on Route 222. Stetson Fire Chief Kim Tracy said the call came in at 1:20 a.m.
“We got woken up at 1 o’clock in the morning to snapping and cracking,” said homeowner Jimmi Brown.
Jean Hatch, Brown’s girlfriend, said her son, Zachary, first heard the crackling in the walls and alerted Hatch and Brown.
“I got up and came out to the living room,” said Hatch. “The crackling got louder. My son … said, ‘Mom, I’m scared. What’s going on?’ There was no smoke, no heat, just crackling.
“I went into my son’s room and I saw an orange glow on the ground outside the window,” Hatch continued. “Jim woke up and asked why the light was on. I said, ‘The house is on fire.’”
The three made it outside before fire crews arrived. Fire crews were there for more than seven hours to battle the stubborn fire, said Tracy.
“We started to do an interior attack, but the ceiling started to give away,” said Tracy. “We had to go into defense mode. It was a stubborn fire. They had that blown insulation, and that holds the fire. The center of the roof collapsed into the structure and we had to pull our firefighters out.”
The below-zero temperatures were a challenge as well, he said.
“We had a lot of issues with frozen lines and frozen trucks,” said Tracy. “With all the water and stuff, we had multiple people fall, but no injuries from the falls. Lots of hand lines and hoses busted. Equipment was freezing up on everybody. It was terrible.”
Several fire hoses were frozen and thawing in Brown’s garage, which wasn’t attached to the house.
Tracy said it’s the first structure fire in Stetson in nearly a year. It’s also one of the worst he has seen.
“Due to the cold conditions, it was one of the worst fires I’ve seen in this town in 15 years,” said Tracy. “It was brutal conditions for trucks and personnel.”
“Every time a truck stopped pumping, it was no time before it was froze up solid,” said Tracy.
Senior Fire Investigator Tim Lowell said the cause was electrical.
“The building has substantial damage, primarily to the first floor and above,” said Lowell. “The fire originated in the attic space in the central portion of the dwelling around the chimney. It appears of electrical origin.”
Brown and Hatch were upbeat despite their dream home being destroyed.
“I loved this house,” said Brown, adding that he invested $44,000 worth of remodeling into the house when he moved in December 2008.
“If you give me enough money, I’ll be in the Bahamas this afternoon,” Brown said in jest to an insurance agent. “I’m tired of this cold.”
A firefighter from Etna was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center as a precaution due to shortness of breath, according to Etna Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Brown.
Fire crews from Newport, Etna, Carmel, Levant, Corinna, Glenburn, Garland and Hermon assisted at the scene.