PITTSTON — The fast-moving, hot fire that destroyed a three-story home and outbuildings Monday was caused by an unpermitted outdoor burn that got out of control, officials said.

Robby Gros, chief ranger in the Forest Protection Division of the Maine Forest Service, said Tuesday that the owner of 11 East Pittston Road admitted to burning prohibited materials in an outdoor wood stove along the outside of the garage.

“Due to the dry conditions and the large amount of materials being burned, the fire quickly spread from the stove to the garage and the adjacent and neighboring structures,” Gros said.

The Forest Protection Division, which enforces the state’s open burning laws, continues to investigate the incident, he said.

The two-alarm fire drew firefighters from 12 departments across central Maine to the property, near the intersection of Routes 27 and 194, where they worked for more than five hours on three fronts to knock down the fire and keep it from spreading to other properties.

The column of smoke produced by the fire was seen as far away as Waterville and Waldoboro.


Pittston Fire Chief Joshua Johnson said when he arrived on scene at 1:33 p.m., the fire had spread from the barn or workshop to the house, which was heavily involved in fire.

“By the time we established water supply, there was no entering the house,” he said. “It was so heavily involved, you could see through the house. I think by 2 o’clock, it had fallen in on itself.”

Firefighters faced two challenges.

One was water supply. Johnson said he had called for tankers to respond, which shuttled in to provide water to fight the fire. They were able to resupply with water from Green Ledge Farm, off Route 27, and a hydrant at the Randolph Fire Station.

Johnson estimates that at least 500,000 gallons of water was used to fight the fire.


The other was wind. Earlier in the day, the fire danger in the area was rated moderate by the state, but by the afternoon, the wind had picked up, carrying burning embers and debris more than 400 yards from the fire.

Johnson said an off-duty Augusta firefighter noticed burning embers, including pieces of cedar siding on the barn, being carried by the wind across East Pittston Road, onto the Tuthill village campus. Some embers drifted under a 9-bay garage. Caretakers from Tuthill moved the vehicles from the garage, and firefighters were able to get in the building and cut out sections of the floor to contain the fire.

At the same time, embers sparked a brush fire going up the hill behind Tuthill, which was also knocked down.

Neighbors reported hearing explosions during the fire. Johnson said that was due to tanks and tires on the property.

While no one was injured in the fire, Johnson said fire caused one of the most substantial losses of equipment for the Pittston department in a number of years. About 1,000 feet of hose and the canvas covers for the hose were damaged or destroyed by blowing embers and will need to be replaced. As of Tuesday, he said he wasn’t sure what the replacement cost would be.

“In 19 years, I haven’t seen this much damage to equipment in one call,” he said.


Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection were also on scene Tuesday.

Pittston property records show 11 East Pittston Road is owned by Sharon Nichols. The home and property, which is a 5.5-acre lot, is valued for property tax purposes at $160,300.

Jessica Swan has created a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for the family’s recovery. As of Tuesday afternoon, $1,880 of the $50,000 goal had been raised.

Patty Cormier, director of the Maine Forest Service, said Tuesday that out-of-control debris burns are the most common cause of wildfires in the state, followed by equipment fires.

“We at the Maine Forest Service want to emphasize the vital importance of not burning materials that should be recycled and ensuring burns do not escape and become wildfires,” Cormier said. “People cause 90% of all fires in Maine, so they are preventable.”

She recommended that people who want to burn brush or wood debris obtain a burn permit and follow the state’s rules and guidelines for open burning.

Johnson said he was pleased by the response to the fire, considering it happened on a Monday afternoon. In addition to Pittston, firefighters from Gardiner, Augusta, West Gardiner, Randolph, Farmingdale, Chelsea, Togus, Whitefield, Jefferson, Dresden and Richmond assisted on-scene.

“It wasn’t enough,” he said, “but I’m glad it wasn’t any less.”

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