Sweltering weather keeps pressure on firefighters battling Deer Isle blaze

An exterior crew of firefighters stand watch as two inside seek out the remaining licks of flames at a house fire in Deer Isle on Thursday, July 18.
An exterior crew of firefighters stand watch as two inside seek out the remaining licks of flames at a house fire in Deer Isle on Thursday, July 18.
Posted July 18, 2013, at 4:42 p.m.
Two firefighters on Thursday punch holes in the roof of an abandoned home in Deer Isle, from which they will be able to combat the fire inside.
Two firefighters on Thursday punch holes in the roof of an abandoned home in Deer Isle, from which they will be able to combat the fire inside.

DEER ISLE, Maine — The nearly 90-degree temperature made for a tough fight against a fire that gutted an abandoned home in Deer Isle on Thursday morning.

Four companies — from Deer Isle, Brooklin, Sedgwick and Stonington — were necessary to provide adequate manpower, said Jim Foley, assistant fire chief in Deer Isle.

The large numbers of firefighters were needed so that each crew could work in 15-minute rotations, Foley said. While one crew fought the fire, which burned the second floor and roof of an abandoned house on Sunset Crossroad, the others received food and water from paramedics, who monitored each firefighter’s vitals before they went back to work.

With turnout gear and air packs, fire crews risked health problems if they stayed in the hot building much longer than 15 minutes, Foley said.

“As soon as you get hot, you can stop functioning so well,” Foley said. “We didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

The fire was reported by Michael Kovac, who lives in a mobile home just a stone’s throw away from the home that burned. Kovac said he saw the fire and smoke around 10 a.m.

“I went out to check the mail and smoke a cigarette,” he said. “I just saw tons of smoke and fire coming out of the roof, so I called 911.”

Firefighters knocked down the bulk of the blaze within about 15 minutes, Foley said, but additional flare-ups kept sparking in “void” spaces, between walls and above ceiling tiles. Because the fire had burned through the floor of the second story, crews had to punch holes the roof and attack from above.

Kovac and his girlfriend, Meranda Smith, said they suspected a bolt of lightning from Wednesday night’s storm caused the fire. Smith said that around 3 a.m., the couple was awakened by the storm, and said she thought she smelled something burning at that time.

Foley said firefighters could see no obvious natural cause of the blaze, and wouldn’t speculate. An investigator from the Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal was scheduled to arrive Thursday afternoon to begin probing for the fire’s origin.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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