SKOWHEGAN — Firefighters from six agencies responded to a burning public storage building on Madison Avenue early Monday morning in what officials said was a possible arson.

The fire was suspicious in origin and badly damaged about ten of the 40 units at Skowhegan In-Town Storage at 229 Madison Ave., said Skowhegan Fire Chief Rich Fowler.

The fire was reported at 1:07 a.m. Monday and took crews from Athens, Canaan, Hartland, Madison, Norridgewock and Skowhegan close to five hours to extinguish.

By 10 a.m. Monday, all of the storage space renters had been notified and several people had come to their units to begin sorting through the charred remains as a light rain fell.

Clyde Campbell, 65, and his grandson, Julian Oakes, 23, were looking for photos and personal items in a storage unit belonging to Oakes’ mother, who lives in Texas.

“We’re just trying to salvage what we can,” said Campbell, who lives in Canaan. “It’s just a sad thing that somebody has to play with other people’s stuff like this.”

The men had managed to save some small photos, an old yearbook and a book titled “Tomorrow Will Be Better.” A piano that Campbell had bought for his grandchildren was destroyed.

At least one area business also had its records stored at the facility.

Scott Rogers, manager of the storage facility, said he believes the owner has insurance.

“It’s just terrible,” he said. “You never prepare for something like this.”

When firefighters arrived at the scene, there was heavy smoke and fire showing from the rear of the units, said Fowler. The heat and hot weather made the fire challenging, he said.

“It takes its toll on the firefighters,” said Fowler. “They need to be rotated out sooner than normal, and of course when we got there the storage units were all locked and we were forced to manually cut all the doors to get into the units.”

The Office of State Fire Marshal and Skowhegan Police Department are investigating. There are no surveillance cameras attached to the facility, but investigators will be reviewing tapes from nearby businesses that might provide a view of the area next the complex, Fowler said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]


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