MONMOUTH — One person was injured in a Tuesday fire that destroyed a storage building on South Monmouth Road, reportedly taking with it more than $1 million worth of inventory.

The building at 235 South Monmouth Road, owned by AD Electric Inc. of Sabattus, was leveled in the fire, which caused a number of thundering explosions that echoed across the valley. Clouds of thick, acrid black smoke was reportedly visible from as far away as the State House in Augusta and on the turnpike in Auburn.

Crews from nine departments across the region, including Leeds in the west and Bowdoinham in the east, as well as Sabattus, Litchfield and Wales, were called to help douse the fire, which was still burning more than two hours after it started. The fire knocked out power to hundreds of people in the area.

AD Electric employee Jeff Quinn, one of three people working around the building when the fire broke out, said one employee was taken to the hospital with burns to his arms and upper body before firefighters arrived.

Monmouth Assistant Fire Chief Ed Pollard said the injured employee was taken by a fellow employee to St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston and then transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. No other injuries were reported at the scene.

Pollard said the fire started in a bucket truck and spread to the nearby building. A pair of investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal arrived while crews were still battling the flames.

Hot embers and flying debris from the fire and the ensuing explosions caused numerous brush fires in the grass and woods across the road. The flames, both in the building and on the ground, were fueled by a strong, gusty wind that blew across the fields that surround the area. Crews quickly extinguished the brush fires, preventing them from spreading to nearby homes.

“There was debris everywhere for a while,” Pollard said.

AD Electric Employee Karen Stark said the building, an old chicken barn roughly 400 feet long, was used for storage for the company, which is based in Sabattus and owned by Andrew Deditch. Stark said she works at the Sabattus Street building and rushed to the site when she heard about the fire.

“It’s where the guys meet every morning, and it has been for the last 35 or 40 years,” Stark said.

The first reports, which came in just after 3 p.m., indicated only a bucket truck was on fire, but the first firefighter to arrive just a few moments later said the fire had spread to the building. Crews immediately began calling for help from nearly every surrounding community.

“When I first got here, it was very obvious the building was gone,” Pollard said. “It had run the length of the building already.” He said he immediately decided that no firefighters would be going into the building itself.

Firefighters set up a safe perimeter around the building as they doused it with water. Extra tankers were called in to help rush water to the site, filling up at a site on Bonin Road and at Jug Stream on Sanborn Road. The fire was largely knocked down by 4:30 p.m., but still produced enough heat to be felt with the wind blowing across the street several hundred feet away. Pollard said he anticipated firefighters would remain on the scene beyond 9 p.m.

“We’re trying to overhaul all the rubble to make sure there are no hotspots,” he said from the scene at 7 p.m.

He said he had yet to start counting the number of vehicles destroyed by the blaze.

Quinn, who has worked for AD Electric for seven years, said he was working on the other side of the building from where an employee in the bucket truck was welding an item up in the air. Quinn said he believes the fire started when a hot piece of slag from the welded metal fell onto one of the bucket truck’s hydraulic hoses. Quinn heard commotion and ran to the other side of the building, where the employee who had been welding was desperately trying to lower the bucket to the ground so he could escape the now burning truck.

“I came around the building just in time to see him jumping,” Quinn said.

The truck and the item being welded was about four feet from the building, making it an easy jump for the flames to get to the storage building. Quinn said he emptied a handful of fire extinguishers on the burning truck, but they did nothing to slow the flames.

“It was already into the building at that point,” Quinn said.

Quinn said the injured co-worker was still conscious though he suffered what Quinn believed to be significant burns to his arms and upper body.

Quinn said the explosions were likely 55-gallon drums of new and used oil. He said the building contained about 700 gallons of oil in addition to inventory for projects the company had lined up. He said the bucket truck, a crane truck and a digger derrick truck were destroyed in the fire. Other vehicles could be seen burning as well.

“His inventory in there for jobs coming up, I’d no doubt give it $1 million,” Quinn said.

He was unsure how much insurance the company kept on the building, but believes it will likely not cover the losses.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.