October 16, 2019
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Fire destroys Machias home

MACHIAS, Maine — A fire that appeared to start in a barn spread rapidly to an attached house and destroyed the home on Thursday.

Firefighters were summoned to the house at 46 West St. in the late morning and remained on the scene into the early evening.

The fire largely was contained by about 1:30 p.m. although flames were still visible at times. Firefighters remained on the scene after 5 p.m., mopping up and starting to remove hoses and equipment.

The two-story, wood-framed, clapboard house was heavily damaged and appeared to be a total loss. A portion of the roof collapsed, one side of the house was severely burned, and there was extensive interior damage. The small barn adjacent to the house was nearly leveled.

The house is located in a neighborhood just west of the downtown area. The flames were visible at times from across the Machias River near the University of Maine-Machias, and thick smoke shrouded some neighboring apartments.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, according to Fire Chief Joey Dennison and Sgt. Tim York of the office of the State Fire Marshal.

There was no pressure in the nearby fire hydrant when firefighters first turned it on, said Dennison. He was unsure how long the hydrant was without pressure before firefighters were able to use it. The crews also brought water to the scene.

Sarah Lord, who works in a nearby insurance office, called 911 to report the fire at 11:33 a.m., she said, although she subsequently learned that another person had called emergency dispatchers about five minutes earlier.

A visiting friend came into the office and told Lord of the fire. Lord ran down the street — the house was only about a half-block away — and saw flames on the attached barn. “It started in the barn,” she said. As she watched, flames quickly spread over the shingles of the barn exterior to the adjacent house, Lord said.

“It was surreal,” she said.

The homeowner, Barbara Koch, watched with co-workers and neighbors as firefighters battled the flames.

“My entire life — all gone,” Koch said, who has lived in the house since 1977.

“I’m in shock,” she told neighbors.

Koch lived in the house with a teenage daughter, but no one was at home when the fire erupted. Her daughter left the house about 15 minutes before the fire was reported, Koch said, who could not recall the assessed value of the home.

Koch and her daughter had three cats, but someone told them at least one cat had escaped through an open window.

Koch was at work at the offices of the Washington County Children’s Program in Marshfield when Lord called her to tell her about the fire. When she called, a staff member told Lord that Koch was busy helping a client. Lord responded, “I don’t care. Her house is on fire.”

Firefighters from Machias and neighboring towns responded.

No injuries were reported.

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