May 27, 2018
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Fire crews battled two major structure fires in Palermo on Sunday

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

PALERMO, Maine — Multiple firefighters were treated Sunday afternoon for high carbon in their blood after spending hours on the scene of two major structure fires around Sheepscot Pond in Palermo.

The first fire, reported at about 1 p.m., completely destroyed a camp on the lake, according to Chief Bill Gillespie from the Liberty Volunteer Fire Department.

“When we got there, she was rocking and rolling and fully involved,” he said of the Varney Shores Road fire. “It was very breezy. The wind conditions were very challenging. And it’s at the end of a small dead end road, so tanker trucks were challenged getting water to the fire, even though we were sitting on the lake.”

Ultimately, the 25 or so firefighters who responded from Liberty, Palermo and Freedom put away the tanker truck and just used floating pumps to take water from Sheepscot Pond to try and extinguish the blaze. Gillespie said that the cause of the fire is undetermined, and it is currently under investigation by the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office. Officials are still trying to determine who owned the building, which is now rubble.

“Until we know that, it’ll be a couple days until the investigation really begins,” he said.

While crews were still mopping up after the lake cottage fire, they received the second call — this time for a brush fire that had gotten out of control and spread to a woodpile on Leeman Arm Road on the other side of the lake. But the woodpile was attached to a large two-story, two-car garage, Gillespie said, and by the time firefighters arrived on scene the garage was on fire, too.

Residents were in the house, but were able to get out without injury. Fire crews successfully saved the home, the chief said, but it wasn’t easy.

“In both fires, the smoke was pretty bad, but in this one, quite a few firefighters were exposed to smoke because of wind conditions and heat,” he said.

Fire crews working in the garage experienced a flashover, when the small fire in a corner of the building enveloped the entire building in a matter of seconds. They also were working under power lines, which caught fire, too.

“We had to move people out of harm’s way,” Gillespie said.

Fire crews from Liberty, Freedom, Palermo, Albion, China, Montville, Somerville, Thorndike, Unity and Searsmont were at the second scene, with the Morrill Volunteer Fire Department helping at the fire station. No firefighters were seriously injured, the chief said.

During both fires, the Maine Forest Service provided a helicopter to try and spot any flare-ups that weren’t seen on the ground.

“Pretty much the north side of Waldo County was involved in this fire,” Gillespie said, adding that it’s very unusual for rural volunteer fire departments to have two structure fires in one day. It also was Mother’s Day, which meant that many volunteer firefighters were away celebrating the holiday with their families.

“It does tax volunteers to have two major incidents in a five-hour span,” he said.

Officials with the Maine Forest Service are investigating the cause of the Leeman Arm Road fire.


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