HARMONY — Fire destroyed a building early Wednesday containing two kilns used to dry firewood on Ripley Road in Harmony, drawing firefighters from four departments who managed to save a third kiln that was about 4 feet from the others.

Firefighters worked in low-single-digit temperatures after a passerby reported the blaze at about 12:05 a.m. at the building owned by Thomas Firewood, based in Ripley.

The business was owned by Doug Thomas, a former state senator and representative, until a year ago when he sold it to his son, Derek, but the elder Thomas still works there.

Doug Thomas, who started the business in 2001, said Thursday the two kilns that were destroyed were inside the same building, a wood frame with metal siding that measured 24 by 60 feet.

“There was 10 cord of firewood in there — completely dried firewood,” Thomas said. “It was kiln-dried. You can imagine the heat that comes out of that all at once.”

The kilns, which the Thomases built, were not insured. Doug Thomas estimated the loss at about $40,000.

“When you add it all up, we probably lost that amount,” he said. “There was a generator in there, and racks we stack the wood in. We had a dozen of those and they cost about $500 to build, and the building itself and the value of the firewood. You’re talking about $3,000 worth of wood.”

Harmony is about 20 miles northeast of Skowhegan, in Somerset County.

Chief Onie Lougee of the Harmony Fire Department said Thursday about 20 firefighters responded from Harmony, Cambridge, Wellington and Athens, and remained at the scene until about 4:15 a.m. He said no one was injured because of the fire, whose cause had not been determined as of Thursday.

Doug Thomas said the firefighters did outstanding work in frigid temperatures.

“There was third kiln sitting there about 4 feet away, and those volunteer firefighters were able to save that third one,” he said. “It’s amazing, it really is. They got there early. They put water in the right places.

“Thank God for those fire departments. These volunteer fire departments, they will come out in the middle of the night in 3 degrees and hang onto a water hose for two to three hours.”

He said he and his son plan to build a bigger, better kiln than the one they used for 15 years, which was destroyed.

“The Fire Department saved the third one,” Doug Thomas said, “and it was the most valuable of the three.”

The kilns that were destroyed dried firewood using an outside, hot-water, wood boiler that pumped the water underneath the firewood, he said. A hot air furnace was in a furnace room at one end of the kiln and it blew hot air into where the wood was stacked. The heat from hot water and air dried the wood in 10 days to two weeks, according to Doug Thomas, who said the heat drew moisture out of the wood.

Derek Thomas, owner of Thomas Firewood, looks Thursday toward a charred wood stove, blowers and other charred rubble that was left after a fire destroyed two of the three drying kilns at the Harmony business. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“Every cord of firewood has approximately 1,000 pounds of water,” he said, “so you’ve got about 125 gallons of water in every cord of firewood.”

The Thomases deliver wood to customers in Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft, but their territory is much wider than that, according to Doug Thomas, who said they also deliver to Freeport, Harrington, Kennebunk, Millinocket, Rockwood and other locations.

Doug Thomas was a Republican state representative in District 25 from 2004 to 2010, and a state senator representing District 27 from 2010 to 2014.

He said he decided long ago not to insure the kilns because, as a small business, it did not make sense to do so due to the high cost of insurance.

“We’ve used them for 15 years,” he said. “We’ve got a lot back from that.”

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