April 07, 2020

Fire marshals investigating barn fire binge

SEDGWICK – As state fire officials met in Augusta Wednesday to review details of the string of arson fires in the state in recent weeks, investigators were at the scene of another arson fire which destroyed a vacant building in Sedgwick Tuesday night.

The Sedgwick fire was deliberately set, according to Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. York inspected the scene Wednesday morning, but because the case remains under investigation, he declined to describe how the blaze was started.

State fire officials, meanwhile, continued their efforts to solve the other arson cases now under investigation. Fire officials have investigated five barn fires in the state within a little more than a week, according to Public Safety Department spokesman Stephen McCausland.

Three of the barn fires, two in Albion and one in Thomaston, have been ruled arson, he said. The cause of a third barn fire in Albion is undetermined, and a barn fire in Swanville remains under investigation.

In addition to the Sedgwick fire, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating an arson fire on Oct. 5 that caused minor damage to the exterior of the East Benton Christian Church in Benton.

“Investigators met here at the State Fire Marshal’s Office today to review the fires to this point, to go over their notes and to get further assignments,” McCausland said Wednesday. “They are working very hard to find out who is responsible.”

McCausland said it is still too early in the investigation to speculate on what may have triggered the arson fires or to release details of the investigations. The fire marshal’s office, he said, has advised residents to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings and to use exterior lights around their property if they have them.

“If something doesn’t look right, we want law enforcement to know about it,” he said.

Tuesday night’s fire in Sedgwick is the third fire in the town within the past three weeks. One fire that destroyed a vacant trailer is considered suspicious. The third fire has been ruled the work of arsonists. Two people have been arrested in connection with that fire.

“There’s nothing to indicate a connection between those fires,” York said, “but that’s certainly something we’re looking into.”

York said investigators also are looking into whether there is a connection between the Sedgwick fire and a string of barn fires around the state, several of which were determined to have been deliberately set.

“There’s nothing to indicate a connection,” he said, “but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t at least a little curious about that.”

The string of arson fires have made local residents and fire officials nervous, according to Sedgwick Fire Chief David Carter, noting that all three fires in town have been located in the same geographic area.

“It makes everybody nervous,” Carter said. “I think all the area fire chiefs are concerned with what’s been going on up in Albion. They’re probably not related, but there could be a copycat out there.”

The latest Sedgwick fire started at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and was burning on both floors of the vacant building when firefighters arrived on the scene. The fire had burned out through the exterior of the building before crews could pour any water on the blaze, Carter said.

“We made an initial attack and knocked it down some, but we ran out of water,” Carter said.

The fire flared up again before mutual aid arrived from other towns and they were able to get a steady supply of water onto the fire. The building was destroyed in the fire. It was owned by John and Diane Fassak of Massachusetts. According to Carter, although the owners have visited the area as recently as this summer, the building has been vacant for some time, and the power was disconnected.

In addition to the Sedgwick department, firefighters from Blue Hill, Brooklin and Deer Isle were on scene to fight the fire, and crews from Penobscot and Surry stood by to cover the Blue Hill and Sedgwick stations. Peninsula Ambulance, the Maine State Police and Bangor Hydro also responded to the scene.

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