DOVER-FOXCROFT – A Sunday evening fire demolished a building that housed maple syrup products and processing equipment, just hours after about 1,000 people attended an open house for Maine Maple Sunday at the sugar house.
Investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office had planned Monday to sift through the remains of Bob’s Sugar House on East Main Street to determine the cause of the fire. But Sgt. Stewart Jacobs, fire investigations supervisor, said that the building was not safe to enter. He said the fire officials would return today with some heavy equipment in order to pull off some materials where they believe the fire started.
Maine Maple Sunday is an annual event during which Maine maple syrup producers hold open houses to allow the public to view production.
Owner Bob Moore said he had closed the shop at about 7 p.m. after processing 55 gallons of syrup. As usual, Moore said he checked the building to make sure everything was off. Because there was so much condensation, he even climbed a ladder to check the eves of the building.
“We went up the ladder to check the attic and came into the back room and checked all of that at 7 p.m.,” Moore said Monday while looking at the destruction. Finding that everything was as it should be, Moore closed the business and walked to his home a few feet away.
At about 11:45 p.m., someone pounded on the door to advise him that his shop was on fire. The building, which was about 58 feet by 35 feet, and its contents, including equipment and 400 gallons of bottled maple syrup, were destroyed. It appeared that the fire started in the middle of the building in a section that had been added onto the business.
Dover-Foxcroft Fire Chief Joseph Guyotte said Monday that the building was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived at the scene. He said it was a difficult fire to fight because of the construction of the sugar house. Firefighters also were hampered by frozen hoses caused by below-freezing temperatures, he said.
“It was a stubborn fire to air out because of the additions that had been done to the original building,” Guyotte said. The fire was so hot that it melted all the plastic jugs, used for maple syrup, stored in the attic.
“There was liquid plastic coming out of the ceiling,” he said.
Guyotte estimated the damage to the business at $150,000.
Moore said he and his wife, Barbara, initially thought the business was insured as an outbuilding under the family’s homeowner’s policy. He learned later in the day, however, that the policy did not cover the building because it was used as a business. He said he had no idea on the estimate of damage.
A small garage that separated the business from Moore’s home had some heat damage. A portable sugar house Moore entered in parades that was stored next to the business was saved.
Moore said Monday that he had been in the maple syrup business for 52 years and has had the business open on Main Street for 17 years. Every few years, he expanded the business.
The company ships its homemade maple products throughout the world. Moore also sells processing equipment. Company sales have been extremely good, especially at Christmastime when the family operates a business in the Bangor Mall, according to family members.
“Everything in the building is gone,” Moore said, while surveying the scene on Monday. But with 5,000 taps in place and the sap running, Moore said, “We’re going to make syrup one way or another.”
He noted that fellow producers have offered to help boil his sap. Moore said he was not sure if he would rebuild in the current location or elsewhere.
Moore praised Dover-Foxcroft and Guilford firefighters who responded to the alarm. “They did a super job, ” he said.
Guyotte said members of his department already were discussing a benefit supper for the Moores. The business had donated 7 gallons of maple syrup to the firefighters for a public breakfast they sponsored Sunday morning to raise funds for Dover-Foxcroft’s Homecoming celebration later this summer.
“We’ll do something for them,” Guyotte said.