TREMONT—A kitchen fire in Bass Harbor on May 25 was the first of three emergency calls for the fire department here last week and resulted in the death of an 85-year-old man.
A call came into the station a little after 7 p.m. for a kitchen fire with one person injured. Members of the fire department and Southwest Harbor-Tremont Ambulance Service responded and took Alexander ‘Sandy’ Watts to Mount Desert Island Hospital.
Watts lived with his wife, and the couple was cooking dinner when an item of clothing he was wearing caught on fire, according to Tremont Fire Chief Keith Higgins. Later Tuesday evening, Watts was transported by LifeFlight to Maine Medical Center in Portland. A state fire investigator traveled from Augusta that evening to conduct an investigation.
On Saturday, members of the fire department were notified by Watts’ family that he had succumbed to his injuries. According to Higgins, the last fatal fire in Tremont was a decade ago when an elderly couple died from smoke inhalation.
“Headed into Memorial Day Weekend, Tremont and Southwest Harbor volunteers saw the sunrise over Seal Cove and the sunset from aboard the Swans Island Ferry,” according to the Tremont Volunteer Fire Department’s Facebook page.
Early Friday morning, just before 4 a.m., members of the fire department responded to a report of a fire in the woods spotted from the bridge in Seal Cove. According to Higgins, it is unclear exactly how the fire started, but it initiated at the shore about 100 feet from a home on Carver Road and consumed a recently constructed wooden staircase. Several large trees in the area also sustained significant fire damage and will need to be removed.
Seven firefighters from Tremont and another seven from Southwest Harbor responded and worked on the steep rugged coastline to extinguish the flames.
Then, at 4:30 p.m., the Swan’s Island Fire Department received reports of a large cloud of smoke coming from a gravel pit off Stockbridge Road. After assessing the location of the fire and potential for it to spread, the department requested support from the mainland by way of tanker trucks and firefighters.
According to Higgins, lumber debris in the gravel pit had been burned at the beginning of April but not since that time. “The conditions were so dry and extreme,” he added as a possible reason for the flare up nearly two months later.
As luck would have it, the 4:45 p.m. ferry was just about to leave Bass Harbor when they were asked to wait for the Tremont fire trucks. Some passengers had to leave their vehicles behind to make room for the two trucks and four firefighters. “We were on the last scheduled ferry to the island,” said Higgins. “When we got there, there was an impressive amount of residents and firefighters helping to rake through grass and stuff to find hot spots.”
“Our mission when we arrived was to assist with tanker water shuttling, supply water and additional manpower to work the hoses,” as reported on the TVFD Facebook page. “The fire was extinguished with the help of a John Deere 110 excavator, forestry hand tools and four, one and a half hand lines. All total the more than three dozen responders applied an estimated 22,000 gallons to the debris pile and sounding wood-line.”
A few more firefighters from the Southwest Harbor Fire Department went out to Swan’s Island on a private lobster boat. Instead of returning to Bass Harbor after dropping off passengers, the ferry waited until 9 p.m. for the island fire department to dismiss the Tremont and Southwest Harbor crews before returning to the mainland with them and the fire trucks.
The previous week on May 22, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake was recorded around 12:30 a.m. in Tremont.
“The sound waves awoke many residents but no damage was recorded,” according to the TVFD Facebook page. “The sound could most closely compare to multiple loaded tri-axle bait trucks cruising up the Bernard road at 40 MPH and hitting that cross-road convert hump that has been there since 1976.”