Lightning strike claims Medway garage as storm batters state

Posted July 16, 2014, at 8:57 a.m.
Last modified July 16, 2014, at 8:03 p.m.

MEDWAY, Maine — A lightning bolt from thunderstorms that rolled over northern Maine on Tuesday ignited a Medway family’s garage in a fire that might have also destroyed a mobile home had not firefighters been training nearby, officials said Wednesday.

The homeowner, Jeffrey Stanley, told firefighters that he “saw a big flash of lightning and heard a loud crack of thunder,” Medway Interim Fire Chief Jon Buckingham said Wednesday. “A few minutes later they smelled something burning.”

The destruction of the garage at 135 Stanley Road was among the worst damage done by Tuesday’s storms, officials said.

About half a dozen trees fell in St. Albans, blocking roads. St. Albans Fire Chief Jason Emery said many private camp roads in town were closed, and it likely will take “several days to get things cleaned up.”

“The east side of the lake here — they got hit hard,” he said. “I just walked down through it, and there’s a lot of damage.”

Heavy rain continued through much of Wednesday. Flash flood watches that were in effect for the entire state expired by early evening, the National Weather Service said.

The weather service will survey southern Somerset County on Thursday to determine if a small tornado touched down.

“We can’t go out there today,” forecaster John Cannon said.

Tuesday night’s fire in Medway might have been worse, but Buckingham was doing driver training on Turnpike Road, which connects to Stanley Road, when the Stanleys called 911 shortly after 7 p.m., Buckingham said.

“We were there maybe a minute, two minutes, tops, after it was called in. We were right handy to it,” Buckingham said.

When the first firefighters arrived, they immediately doused the home’s walls closest to the garage. Siding was melting off the home, which took minor fire damage, and the garage was not salvageable, Buckingham said.

Buckingham’s 3,000-gallon fire engine used about 2,250 gallons of water in its tank, enough to protect the home, until more help arrived, he said.

Firefighters from the East Millinocket, Mattawamkeag, Millinocket and Sherman fire departments provided manpower and tanker trucks at the scene or manned Medway’s fire station, East Millinocket Fire Captain Peter Larlee said.

“If we would have been coming from the station, there’s a really good chance that we could have lost the trailer,” Buckingham said. “Another couple of minutes or maybe even seconds and the trailer would have been going as well.”



A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Medway Fire Department’s first truck on the scene, a 3,000-gallon pumper, had 2,250 gallons when it arrived.