Firefighters from three towns work to extinguish flames that destroyed the home of Ted and Bonnie Turner on Swans Island on Monday. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARY ELLEN MARTEL

Cold, wind hamper firefighting effort



Frozen hoses and gear begin to thaw back at the fire station after a house fire on Swans Island on Monday. PHOTO COURTESY SWANS ISLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT

Frozen hoses and gear begin to thaw back at the fire station after a house fire on Swans Island on Monday.
PHOTO COURTESY SWANS ISLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT

SWANS ISLAND — Firefighters from Tremont and Southwest Harbor traveled by lobster boat and ferry to help local volunteers battle flames that gutted the Ted and Bonnie Turner residence on Quarry Road here Monday afternoon.

The fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. by a neighbor who saw smoke pouring out of the home’s windows. One person was in the house at the time but managed to escape. The fire appeared to have started on the second floor of the house.

“My pager went off but didn’t have the location,” Fire Chief Robert Gardner explained. He was working at a nearby construction site. “When I got outside, I could see the smoke.”

Crews braved single-digit temperatures and a biting northwest wind as the stubborn blaze consumed the home. No injuries were reported. Fortunately, Gardner said, the home was not far from the pond used as a reservoir by the fire department. They were able to lay hoses to the scene. Even when not directed onto the flames, the hoses were left running to prevent freeze ups.

After a mutual aid call went out for additional help, Frenchboro lobsterman Wyatt Beal took seven firefighters from Southwest and Tremont, all clad in cold-weather turnout gear, for the ride on rough seas out to the island.

When firefighters returned to station, friends and neighbors had filled a table to overflowing with hot food and coffee. PHOTO COURTESY SWANS ISLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT

When firefighters returned to station, friends and neighbors had filled a table to overflowing with hot food and coffee.
PHOTO COURTESY SWANS ISLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT

The state ferry transported a pickup, a pumper truck and additional fire fighters to Swans later and also did a special after-hours run to return the volunteers and the gear to Mount Desert Island. In all, about 20 firefighters turned out.

“It was a battle with the low temps and the snow drifts around the house,” said Deputy Chief Kenny LeMoine III.

“All that cold and ice from the spray is hard on the guys and on the equipment,” Gardner said.

Ted Turner also ran a bottled propane business on the property. Gardner explained that crews made sure to move steel canisters of gas back from the flames. “The house is pretty much a total loss,” Gardner added.

By the time firefighters returned to the station that evening, friends and neighbors had filled a table to overflowing with hot food and coffee. Crews were recalled to the scene around 10:30 p.m. when the debris reignited but quickly put out the flare up.

On Tuesday, Maine State Fire Marshal Jeremy Damren inspected what was left of the house. Because of the extent of the damage, it was impossible to determine an exact cause. “Officially, we’re listing it as undetermined,” he said in a telephone interview. “There was nothing suspicious about it, just not enough to make any conclusions,” he added.

Kari Carter Seavey posted on Facebook late Monday that the homeowners lost everything in the fire. She was coordinating donations of clothing for the couple, described as being in their 60s.

“I am looking for donations for a family on Swans Island that lost everything to a fire today,” she wrote. “This is what I am looking for as far as clothes and will find out what else is needed as well. Men’s size 32×32 pants, medium to large shirts and size 10 to 10.5 shoes and women’s size 6 pants and medium size shirts and size 9w shoes. Also coats for both, and socks and underwear as well, I can meet to pick up.”

She can be reached at [email protected] or 479-6405.

Gift card donations can be sent to Swans Island Town Office, c/o Gwen May, 125 Harbor Road, Swans Island, ME 04685.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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