PLYMOUTH — The fire that broke out late Wednesday afternoon on Moosehead Trail and severely damaged a mobile home probably was caused by a space heater.

Lt. Walter Gibbons, of the Plymouth Fire Department, said the homeowners were running a space heater in the bedroom to save on oil costs during the bitter cold, but the heater either shorted out or overheated, igniting the fire. The mobile home was damaged by fire, heat and smoke, but an addition and nearby garage were still standing. The uninsured mobile home was a total loss, he said, and the homeowners lost their belongings.

While the homeowners were not hurt, two cats are unaccounted for, and they probably died in the fire. Gibbons said firefighters did try to search for the cats, but he assumes they were in the bedroom when the fire began.

The fire, which broke out around 3 p.m. Wednesday as bitter cold and wind gripped the region, apparently rekindled at least twice, once later Wednesday night and again on Thursday morning.

A house fire rekindles from a previously extinguished fire when it reignites from hidden, smoldering remains, especially if water does not make its way down through the remains. Spraying water in freezing temperature and a lack of manpower and necessary equipment to ensure every ember is out can lead to rekindling.

Many fire departments throughout central Maine run by volunteers sometimes lack the manpower needed to extinguish a blaze fully.

Gibbons said rekindling is a common occurrence, especially in the winter. While crews spray flames, a sheet of ice forms over the ground, which keeps water from reaching anything under the sheet. Rekindling is not the result of crews not doing their job, he said, but rather an access problem. After the fire, he said, someone drives by the scene periodically in case a fire rekindles. Putting it out is routine maintenance, he said.

Gibbons wanted to bring an excavator to the scene during the fire, but he was unable to do so because of the lack of manpower. A fire like the one in Plymouth normally would require four departments to respond, but because everyone was understaffed, seven had to respond. Only 15 people were at the scene with only eight actually fighting the fire.

It took 20 minutes to knock it down, and crews were able to leave the scene after about three hours. Damage was limited to the residence, and while the fire did not reach the garage or addition, the mobile home was a total loss not only because of the fire but because of all the “ripping and tearing” that comes with putting out a fire.

“There’s no way of repairing it,” Gibbons said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

 

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