MILLINOCKET, Maine — Several thousand rounds of ammunition cooked off during a fire that destroyed a Medway Road home on Thursday, killing several pets and heavily damaging a nearby house, firefighters said.
Firefighters were startled at first by the explosions, which sounded like erratic semi-automatic weapons fire, at the fire at 11 Medway Road, Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte said.
The noise briefly reminded Turcotte of several incidents where firefighters were targets of violence, but it soon became clear that firefighters weren’t being fired upon. Firefighters stayed calm, and no one was hurt by homeowner Jamie Mackin’s stockpile, he said.
“In situations like that, the primary concern is firefighters’ safety from shrapnel,” Turcotte said Thursday. “There was a little bit of tension. Nowadays, you can [run into] a violent response to first responders.”
Turcotte said he believed Mackin was an avid hunter or target shooter and said the fire appeared to be caused by a malfunctioning wood stove. Turcotte delayed fully interviewing Mackin at the scene, he said, because Mackin was distraught over the loss of his home and pets.
The fire was a misery for both the Mackin family and firefighters, Turcotte said. Besides destroying Mackin’s 1½-story house and killing one or two of his dogs, the fire burned away the siding and half the roofing to another house about 15 feet away that Turcotte believes was unoccupied, he said.
The fire was reported after Mackin left the home early Thursday afternoon with the stove burning. When he returned, he saw flames pouring from the structure. Firefighters got the call at 1:30 p.m. When they arrived several minutes later, the house was already fully engulfed and propane tanks alongside it had started to explode, Turcotte said.
Firefighters found that the nearest hydrant was so far away that they couldn’t quite run a four-inch hose from it to the fire. They had to splice two 2½-inch lines at the beginning of the driveway to really get close to the building, Turcotte said.
By then the heat from the building was so intense that Turcotte said he had to back a firetruck away from the structure and keep his firefighters about 200 feet away. Live electrical wires were an obstruction, as was the ice on the steep driveway.
Icy conditions led to two firefighters falling, without serious injury, he said.
Firefighters returned from Medway Road at about 7 p.m., just as Turcotte was leaving to further investigate the fire’s origin.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an error. Millinocket Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte was not alluding to an incident in Webster, N.Y., in which two firefighters were killed and two injured, he was alluding to several incidents where firefighters were targets of violence.