A smoldering debris pile is seen Wednesday night at Kennebec Metal Recycling after an out-of-control fire there had to be doused by local crews. Photo courtesy of Skowhegan Fire Department

The Skowhegan Fire Department spent hours at a scrap metal yard on Brown Street late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, extinguishing fires in scrap metal piles and then digging through the piles to ensure the fires did not re-ignite.

Kennebec Metal Recycling, owned by Brian and Allison Keyte, had received a permit from the town to burn wooden pallets, but apparently workers left the site at the end of the workday Wednesday and the fire was not completely extinguished, according to Skowhegan Fire Chief Shawn Howard. The fire spread to piles of scrap metal, the largest of which was about 12 feet high, 20 feet wide and 70 feet long, Howard said Thursday.

“It was basically debris — anything that you can think of that people put into a scrap pile — a tour bus, lawn tractors, bicycles,” he said.

The Maine Forest Service was due to arrive at the scene to help determine exactly what happened, he said. The fire was reported at 9:47 p.m. Wednesday and firefighters left the scene at 1 a.m. Thursday. Howard said firefighters contained the fire in the largest pile fairly quickly but they had to tear apart “multiple small piles” to extinguish fires in them.

Brown Street is a short street off Waye Street, which is off North Avenue. About nine firefighters responded to the scene and the Norridgewock Fire Department stood by at Skowhegan’s station, according to Howard.

He urged people who have camp or brush fires this time of year to make sure they are completely extinguished. Conditions are very dry and, even after a day of rain, an ember can reignite, he said.

“The wind can come up very quickly and kick that fire right back up,” Howard said. “You’ve got to dig in there and spread those ashes around so that you can really get things soaked through.”

A good test for whether a fire is out is to place the back of a hand directly on the pile of ashes, which should be cold, according to Howard.

“If you can’t do that, then your fire’s not completely out,” he said.

 

RUBBISH TRUCK FIRE

Earlier in the day Wednesday, Skowhegan firefighters responded to a rubbish truck fire on Research Drive that destroyed the International-brand truck. The state Department of Environmental Protection came to help clean up diesel that had spilled into a parking lot, a drain and retention pond, according to Howard.

The truck, owned by Bolster’s Rubbish Removal of Burnham went to drop off an empty rubbish container at Dialysis Clinic Inc. at 27 Research Drive and pick up a full one when the truck caught fire just after 1 p.m., he said.

“We responded to Research Drive and the truck was completely, fully involved,” Howard said. “The crews knocked the fire down.”

A diesel fuel tank ruptured, sending diesel oil into the parking lot and drain, and from the drain it went into a retention pond, according to Howard. Firefighters blocked off the drain and the state Department of Environmental Protection arrived with a vacuum truck to clean the diesel from the pond, he said.

Howard said the fire appeared to have started because of “some sort of mechanical failure.”

“It’s still under investigation — we may not be able to determine a cause.”

Research Drive is off Fairview Avenue in Skowhegan.

 

APARTMENT FIRE

On Tuesday night, a day earlier, Skowhegan firefighters also extinguished a fire that ignited the exterior of an apartment building on Judkins Court that started from a plastic can used for cigarette butts placed too close to the building, Howard said.

“The fire started outside of the building from improper disposal of smoking materials,” he said. “All the damage was on the exterior. They were able to very quickly knock it down.”

He said the building has two apartments. Residents smelled smoke, stepped outside the building, saw the fire and dialed 911 at 9:50 p.m., Howard said.

The residents were using a plastic coffee can to dispose of cigarette butts, a practice Howard recommends against.

“Don’t use plastic cans and don’t put them next to a building,” he advised.

The siding on the building and some wood under the siding was damaged by the fire, which also got up into the eaves of the building, he said. There was no damage to the inside apartments, but firefighters ventilated one of them because of smoke, he said.

Judkins Court is a small street behind the U.S. Post Office that connects Cross and High streets.


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