Southwest Harbor firefighters gear up at the scene of a house fire on Wood Street on Thursday evening. PHOTO BY MARK GOOD

Third fire in three days damages house



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Firefighters here responded to the third fire in three days after receiving a report of a blaze at a residence on Wood Street Thursday.

A 911 call reporting smoke in the home owned by Mary McCormick came in just after 9 p.m., according to Chief Sam Chisholm of the Southwest Harbor Fire Department.

There initially was some confusion when firefighters arrived on the scene, Chisholm said. There were no visible flames or obvious smoke, making it difficult to determine where to attack the fire if there actually was one.

“We found it was in the basement,” Chisholm said.

After determining the basement door was extremely hot, firefighters kicked the door open and immediately sprayed water into the basement. That action kept the fire from “flashing over,” which would have been an extremely dangerous situation for firefighters. Chisholm explained the fire had been smoldering and the inrush of oxygen from the open door could have caused the entire basement area to erupt in flames.

A thermal imaging camera indicated that the temperature in the basement was 1000 degrees at the time firefighters entered.
Complicating the suppression efforts was the fact the basement and home were filled with clutter, the chief said.

“It was a 15-minute fire suppression that took us three hours,” Chisholm said.

There is minimal structural damage; although floor joists and other lumber are charred. However, the fire melted all electrical wiring and PVC plumbing in the basement. The home is not livable and McCormick was put up for the night at an Ellsworth motel by the American Red Cross.

“Everything points to an electric space heater,” Chisholm said of the cause.

The state fire marshal inspected the home and determined that he “couldn’t eliminate the failure of the cord or plug” supplying power to the heater, he added.

Firefighters from Tremont assisted Southwest Harbor at the scene.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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