MAPLETON, Maine – High winds made fighting a blaze at a trailer on the West Chapman Road difficult Jan. 17, as firefighters struggled with the cold weather – trying to keep warm while spraying hundreds of gallons of water on the home.
The Mapleton Fire Department responded to a call at approximately 2:20 p.m. of a structure fire on the West Chapman Road. When firefighters arrived, the home was already well-involved.
“A passerby contacted 9-1-1 and the report was relayed to Mapleton,” said Fire Chief Rich Wark.
One of the first on the scene was George Howe.
“I work for the town of Mapleton in the Highway Department. I was at the garage when the call came in. I used to be a firefighter but got done a few weeks ago. I decided to get in one of the trucks and head to the fire,” said Howe.
Upon arrival, Howe said he went around behind the building to assess the situation. He grabbed a hose and began fighting the fire while waiting for the arrival of others from the department.
With the wind chill figured in, sub-zero temperatures made conditions worse for firefighters.
“My ears were the worst part,” said Howe. “We had to get the road sanded around the tankers. The water was freezing as fast as it hit the ground.”
Although it was a bright, sunny day, smoke was so heavy it blocked out the daylight and dropped visibility to zero on the nearby road. Deputies from the sheriff’s department were called in to direct traffic around the area, due to the poor visibility and emergency vehicles lining the road. Crown Ambulance stood by in case their assistance was needed.
“Maine Public Service was called in to cut the power to the home,” said Wark.
Wark said the owner of the trailer, Randy Robbins, indicated he had been thawing the home’s water line with a torch.
“Randy told me he left briefly to run an errand and thought he might have left the torch on,” said Wark.
Robbins was living at the home at the time of the fire and was believed to be the sole occupant. There were no pets at the residence.
Several other fire departments responded to offer mutual aid.
“Ashland, Washburn and Presque Isle assisted us,” said Wark. “We kept the tankers busy going back to town to fill up. It was a difficult task keeping lines thawed.”
Over 30 firefighters responded to the scene to help combat the blaze.
The home, which was insured, was destroyed by the fire.
No one was injured as a result of the fire.
“We were lucky. With such cold temperatures and icy conditions, it wouldn’t have taken much for someone to get frostbite or an injury from falling,” said Wark. “We’re fortunate no one got hurt that day.”
Wark had some advice for anyone attempting to thaw pipes this winter.
“Use caution when thawing pipes. Make sure heat tapes are in good shape, with no cracks or breaks in their coating. Don’t leave any kind of flame unattended. If a person is worried about a line freezing, they can leave a faucet turned on low to keep the water flowing,” said Wark. “Sometimes simple steps can make the difference between being safe and being in danger.”