Smoke and heat from a Wednesday overnight barn fire wiped out half of a Hampden contractor’s cement mixing fleet, dealing a devastating blow to the longtime family-owned business.
“I did have five mixer trucks in there and a loader,” said Ed Hughes, vice president of Hughes Brothers Inc., which his family founded on Route 1A nearly 100 years ago. “So, yeah, it was devastating to say the least. But we’ll get through it.”
Hughes plans to rent trucks in order to stay on track with the various residential and commercial contracts that have made the firm well-known in Greater Bangor. The family business employs about 40 people in the winter and 60 in the busier summer months, he said.
“Luckily, at this time of year, it’s slow so I’ve got time to get them fixed before the springtime,” he said.
But he expects the damage to total in the hundreds of thousands — while the trucks still run, their fiberglass parts melted, he said — and he is waiting for an engineer to tell him whether the heat-warped beams of the company’s 800-by-200 square-foot storage barn can be salvaged. Insurance should cover the costs, Hughes said.
The fire started sometime after 2 a.m. and did not spread, so most of the damage was caused by heat and smoke, Hampden firefighter Jared Lebarnes said.
The Maine fire marshal’s office is still working to confirm the cause of the fire, but Lebarnes said he is “leaning toward” Hughes’ theory: that workers using a metal grinder on Tuesday sent sparks into a nearby pile of flammable “speedy dry,” a material used to absorb oil spills on the garage floor.
The sparks smoldered overnight, eventually lighting a pile of tires. Hughes examined security footage from a camera pointed at the outside of the barn Wednesday morning and saw “a light in the window” around 2:30 a.m., he said.
But the fire eventually ran out of oxygen, and the flames died down by the time workers arrived at 5 a.m., Lebarnes said. Workers called 911 when they opened the barn doors to a cloud of black smoke, he said.
Several local agencies responded and doused what was left of the fire by 7:14 a.m., Lebarnes said.
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