BELMONT, Maine — The founder of BelTek, the summer electronic music festival that brings hundreds of fans to his Belmont field, was playing music for festival goers Saturday afternoon when his house caught fire.
And although fire departments from nine area towns battled the blaze at Rick Kidson’s old farmhouse, witnesses said Rick Kidson’s house does not appear to be salvageable. Still, Kait Pressey, Kidson’s sister-in-law who came from Windham to help organize the weekend festival, said it is very fortunate nobody was injured and that Kidson’s many pet birds were saved from the blaze.
“I heard somebody yell that some smoke was coming from the barn,” Pressey said Monday. “We ran into the house to grab some fire extinguishers, thinking it would be just a small fire. And when we came out it was an entire wall of the barn that was up in flames. The barn was a total loss, and the house does not appear salvageable. It appears like a total loss, too. It just happened so fast. Everyone stood there in horror.”
Erik Klausmeyer, a friend of Kidson’s and a longtime BelTek organizer, said there were between 300 and 400 people at the 14th annual festival, which began Friday night and was scheduled to last through late morning on Sunday. The music is set up in a large field near Kidson’s home, and at the time the fire began most of the attendees were in the field and not too close to the house. But the people in the field were asked to move back to the tree line when the fire began because Kidson, a plumber with a home-based business, keeps propane tanks in his barn, Pressey said.
“There was a concern that there might be an explosion,” she said. “Fortunately that did not happen.”
Fire departments from nine towns — Belmont, Searsmont, Morrill, Lincolnville, Liberty, Montville, Belfast, Searsport and Northport — responded to the fire, according to a report from the Penobscot Bay Pilot online news. The cause of the fire can’t be determined because of the extensive damage, Sgt. Ken Grimes of the fire marshal’s office said.
“The fire originated in the garage, and at this time there’s nothing that would indicate that it’s anything other than an accident,” he said. “The electrical service for the festival was run through the garage, but due to the extent of damage, we cannot say if that was or was not a cause.”
Klausmeyer and Pressey said that even though there were many people at the festival, all cooperated with fire officials.
“It was very impressive, how orderly it was,” Klausmeyer said. “They made room for the fire departments and made room for the police. Nobody tried to be a hero.”
More than 40 festival attendees stayed after the fire was extinguished to help clean up, and many others in the electronic music community have contributed to a GoFundMe page to raise money to help Kidson with the aftermath of the fire. The campaign generated more than $7,500 in donations in just one day. The money is especially helpful because in addition to his home, he also lost most of his plumbing tools, Klausmeyer said.
“He has four kids and he has brothers, but his family is so much bigger than that because of the festival,” Klausmeyer said. “For the last 15 years, he has been involved in the music scene in Maine and New England and supported dozens and dozens of events. Because of that, he has had an incredible outpouring of support. He has been getting donations from all over the country and even from other countries.”
The support means a lot to Kidson, Pressey said.
“I know that he has just been absolutely floored by folks’ willingness to step in and do what can be done,” she said.