JACKSON, Maine - Members of the Monty Dunphy family lost their home and all their belongings when fire ripped through their Kendall Hill Road residence Tuesday morning.
Fire Chief Donald Nickerson Sr. said the wood-frame home at the end of a long dirt road was already completely ablaze when he arrived. Neighbor Hazen Tibbetts sounded the alarm at 7 a.m. after deciding to check out what he thought was a brush fire at the Dunphy home only to encounter the structure in flames.
Dunphy and his two sons were not home at the time, according to Nickerson. The sons had stayed overnight with friends, and Dunphy had already left for work.
He said the family will be staying in Brooks with Dunphy’ s mother.
“There was no way I could do anything,” Nickerson said. “The whole roof had collapsed by the time I got there.”
Nickerson said firefighters from Jackson, Brooks and Thorndike concentrated on keeping the fire from spreading to the surrounding woods as it was evident that the home was already lost. The electrical wires had already fallen from the home by the time firefighters arrived. He said Dunphy told him he had insurance on his mortgage, but not the home’ s contents.
“Basically it was a surround and drown, as dry as it is in those woods,” the fire chief said, referring to the firefighters’ tactics. “There was nothing we could do for the house.”
Nickerson said the fire also was fueled by venting gas from a propane tank and six cords of wood near the house. He said once firefighters shut off the large propane tank, they rolled it away from the building. An excavator was called in to push the woodpile away. He said a nearby stream provided a more than adequate supply of water to fight the fire.
“We had plenty of water,” he said.
Nickerson said Dunphy had left his home at 5:30 a.m. with a work crew to tend to a concrete job in another town. He said he was notified by cell phone of the fire and returned to the scene but went back to work once he realized the extent of his loss.
“You can’ t just stop pouring concrete,” Nickerson said.
Once Tibbetts realized the black smoke was not from a brush fire, he ran to the home and ripped the door open looking for Dunphy’ s dog. Fortunately, Dunphy had taken the dog with him to the job, Nickerson said. Tibbetts then had to drive up the road to his mother’ s home to call 911.
Jackson is a rural town of 27 square miles of woods and fields with 425 residents. For that reason, “I don’ t allow any burning in the daytime. All my firefighters are out of town,” Nickerson said.
Most of the department, including Nickerson, were on their way to work when the alarm sounded, and they quickly turned around and headed back to town. No one was injured fighting the fire. As to the cause of the blaze, Nickerson said Tibbetts told him it appeared that it may have originated in the kitchen.
But Nickerson added, “I have no idea at all. It was destroyed to a point that nobody could discover the origin. He’ s [Dunphy] going to have to start right from scratch to rebuild. Even the slab got so hot I don’ t know if it could be reused.”