SOUTH THOMASTON – A firefighter who arrived at the scene of a house fire at the corner of Buttermilk Lane and Elm Street (Route 73) in South Thomaston stopped on the front lawn and looked at where a house should be. All he saw was smoke.
By 9 a.m. on Tuesday, February 15, 2022, most of the black smoke had dissipated, only returning as white mist when the water from the on-demand hose strayed with the wind. But, for the previous 45 minutes, visibility, air temperatures and structural weaknesses would preclude the fight to contain the fires.
The South Thomaston Fire Department was called to the single-storey, double-wide structure at 156 Elm Street at approximately 8:15 a.m. Shortly after, they were joined by firefighters from Owls Head, Thomaston, Cushing , St. George, Warren and Rockland. . A little more time passed before Rockport FD appeared as additional manpower.
Because the house had no working smoke detectors, the only resident who was home at the time of the fire was unaware of the flames until a neighbor who knew where to go. found his room was knocking on his door to alert him, according to South Thomaston Fire Chief Bryan Calderwood. As the first on the scene, Calderwood also encountered a stretch of Elm Street with zero smoke visibility coming from the entire front of the house.
With the interior deemed unsafe, crews ran hoses into windows and doors. As the flames spread along the walls, new holes were drilled to keep the water directed where it was needed.
This water also ended up in areas where it was not needed. Sweat pooled inside staff uniforms as they took turns in the hot zone. EMS personnel on site dispensed 8 oz. Bottles of water. By 10 a.m., an entire crate would be consumed. Shortly after firefighters took their breaks and walked away, the sweat turned freezing in the morning to 14 degrees with even colder wind chills. Over time, you could tell who had been in the spray area. If the ice droplets on their gear didn’t give them away, the awkward walking of the extra weight made the story stronger.
According to Calderwood, firefighters learned that a heat gun was being used to thaw frozen pipes under the house and was accidentally left on when one of the homeowners left for work. A dog and a cat also resided in the house. The cat perished.
As for hotspots, an excavator was requested as a proactive measure to possibly knock down walls. In the end, the shovel was not used.
All remaining firefighters left the scene at 11:30 a.m.