WATERVILLE — Firefighters from three towns battled a fire at a Dairy Queen in a mall off Kennedy Memorial Drive that started in a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system unit on the roof of the ice cream shop.

About 20 firefighters from Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Skowhegan worked the fire at the KMD Plaza mall in frigid temperatures.

Waterville Fire Chief David LaFountain, who was at the scene, said that while there appeared to be minimal damage inside the shop, but materials exposed to smoke may have to be thrown out because of health regulations.

“The bigger expense is on the roof,” he said, as he watched firefighters working from a ladder truck on the heating and air conditioning unit. “They (Dairy Queen) reported yesterday they had problems with heat — that it was cold inside. We may be looking at a burnt motor.”

Both the state health inspector and officials from the state Fire Marshal’s Office were called to the fire, which was reported at 8:09 a.m. Friday.

LaFountain said Vassalboro firefighters covered the Winslow Fire Station and Albion firefighters covered the Waterville station.

He said that when firefighters got a call about the Dairy Queen fire, Waterville had a truck and crew at a fire in Belgrade, so the number of firefighters that could respond to the Dairy Queen fire was limited.

“We couldn’t call Oakland because Oakland was busy out in Belgrade also,” he said. “This is how it is nowadays with the lack of volunteer firefighters. We’re spread thin. When you have a fire, it ties up a half a dozen communities. If you have two at the same time, it ties up the whole county.”

As he spoke, firefighters were letting steam dissipate from the heating and air conditioning unit on the roof so they could try to find the point of origin of the fire, he said.

“The fire burned down into the attic and smoke got into the restaurant — all over the restaurant — and that’s why the state health inspector had to be called,” he said.

KMD Plaza is behind Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Kennedy Memorial Drive. Dairy Queen is in the westernmost end of the plaza. Besides Dairy Queen, the plaza houses Seacoast Security, Lacey & Company Day Spa, Beltone, Armed Forces Career Center and Retail Therapy Clothing Boutique and Consignment.

LaFountain said no one was in the mall businesses when the fire was reported. However, employees of Seacoast, which is in the easternmost end of the mall, said they were in their office.

Dean Nickles, Seacoast’s Waterville branch manager, said Dairy Queen has a Seacoast commercial fire system in place that detected smoke and Seacoast’s monitoring center in Rockport got the alarm and notified the fire department.

“It probably prevented more damage,” Nickles said of the early detection.

Nick Labbe, customer relations manager for Seacoast, said more of the mall could have caught on fire if the system had not been in place.

“The key thing is early detection,” he said. “We detected smoke when it first started.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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