BUCKSPORT, Maine — A house owned by a local high school teacher was significantly damaged Tuesday after a fire broke out in the basement while a 16-year-old boy was trying to start a riding lawn mower.
Craig Bowden, chief of the local fire department, said Tuesday that the lawn mower backfired in the basement as the boy, who does not live at the home, was trying to get it started a few minutes before 1 p.m. The boy does yard work for the homeowner, Robert Cloutier, a longtime English teacher at the local high school, Bowden said. He did not release the boy’s name, but the boy identified himself to media at the fire scene as Lucas Ashmore.
Attempts late Tuesday afternoon to contact Cloutier by phone were unsuccessful.
The house, located on Jacob Buck Pond Road, has a walk-out basement, the chief said. As the fire spread, the boy went outside, closing the basement door behind him, and then quickly walked around the house to the front door and back inside to make sure all the doors and windows upstairs were closed before going back outside again, the fire chief said.
Bowden said the boy told firefighters who arrived at the house a few minutes later that he did this to help deprive the fire of oxygen. The fire chief said the teen’s actions seemed to have the desired effect and limited the spread of the fire.
“[The fire] did extensive damage in about one half of the basement,” Bowden said, adding that there was extensive damage to the home’s electrical system, which has been shut off. “There’s heavy smoke and some heat damage upstairs.”
If the boy had not closed the doors and windows in the house, the damage could have been worse, he said. As it is, the house sustained an estimated $25,000 damage in the blaze, he said. He added that he thinks the house is insured but had not yet confirmed if it is.
Bowden said firefighters from Orland and Orrington assisted Bucksport crew at the scene, with about two dozen total showing up to help put out the flames. He said firefighters had the flames knocked down within a few minutes of arriving and were at the scene for about two hours.