May 25, 2018
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Fire destroys auto body shop on Verona Island; no one hurt

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

VERONA ISLAND, Maine — A fire sparked by a welder destroyed an auto body shop Monday afternoon.

According to Capt. Terry Grindle of the Bucksport Fire Department, an employee at Newcomb’s Auto Body was welding a vehicle in the shop when it caught fire. Owner Chris Newcomb said he got a call from the employee, who said the vehicle had caught fire and he couldn’t get it out.

The fire had spread and flames were coming through the roof when the first firefighters arrived.

“It was already well-involved when we got here,” Grindle said. “When the first firefighter crested the hill, he could see black smoke over the trees.”

The fire was difficult to fight for a number of reasons, Grindle said. There were a lot of flammable materials inside. The blaze started in one of the work bays on the east side of the building and firefighters fought to save a section on the west side of the building. But then flames reached the paint area at the back of that section, he said.

“There’s a lot of flammable stuff in that area,” Grindle said. “Then it spread up into the roof trusses.”

The trusses on both sections of the building posed a problem for firefighters, he said. The building is fairly new — Newcomb said he has been at that location for about seven years — and the trusses are held together with metal plates.

When the temperature reaches about 700 degrees, Grindle said, those plates and the teeth soften up and let go.

“The roof just caved in,” he said.

That buried the main fire, making it difficult for firefighters to attack the blaze, the fire captain said. Firefighters planned to bring in a bulldozer in order to move the rubble around so they could get to any lingering hot spots.

The hot weather Monday also caused problems for firefighters. With temperatures around 90 degrees and firefighters suited up in their turnout gear, there was a danger that they could overheat, according to Grindle. In situations like this, he said, it is important to have reinforcements on hand so that firefighters can get a break.

“Getting a lot of people here early is the key,” he said.

The Bucksport Fire Department provides fire coverage for the town of Verona Island. Under local mutual aid agreements and a Hancock County mutual aid pact, crews from Dedham, Blue Hill, Ellsworth, Orland, Orrington, Prospect, Stockton Springs, Surry and Penobscot also responded to the fire call. Bucksport Police and the Waldo County Sheriffs Office assisted with traffic control.

Tankers from several of those departments ferried water to the scene from a fire hydrant near the Peary’s Landing park on Main Street in Bucksport.

Grindle said that one person, possibly the employee, was taken to the hospital as a precaution for treatment of smoke inhalation, but no one was injured in the blaze.

“That’s the important thing,” Newcomb said. “Everybody got out. This can be replaced.”

The building was insured, he said.

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