CHELSEA — Firefighters from at least eight communities responded to a large fire Sunday afternoon that destroyed a warehouse and several prebuilt sheds at New England Rent to Own in Chelsea.

The fire at 65 River Road, which was reported at about 1 p.m., sent a huge plume of black smoke into the air that was visible for miles, and prompted requests for tanker trucks to respond from as far as West Gardiner and Manchester.

Videos posted on social media showed sheds the company builds and stores in its parking lot engulfed in flames.

Emergency radio communications reported a possible explosion at the site of the blaze, with several people who live near the site of the blaze reporting on social media they had heard what sounded like an explosion, though New England Rent to Own’s co-owners said they were not aware of anything that had exploded.

The company produces and sells mobile and manufactured homes. Co-owner Bobby Miller said the warehouse that burned was used primarily to store wood and other materials used to manufacture sheds, mobile homes and more.

No one was inside the burning warehouse, Miller said, because the business is closed Sundays.


“That’s a saving grace, if nothing else,” he said. “We have no clue what caused it. Like I said, nobody was here.”

Access to River Road, also called Route 9, was limited Sunday afternoon. The was road closed from Chelsea to Augusta at about 1 p.m., but reopened to traffic at about 4 p.m.

The fire had been largely extinguished by 3 p.m. as firefighters continued spraying the warehouse’s smoldering remains using a hose attached to a ladder truck. An excavator was seen combing through the building’s remains as fire crews began leaving the scene.

The fire’s cause had yet to be determined later Sunday afternoon.

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