When Marc am Rhein looked out his kitchen window on Tuesday afternoon he saw in horror that his garage was on fire. He quickly called 911 and within minutes Liz Michaud, the dispatch operator on duty at Naples, toned out the Sebago Fire Department to respond. Due to the quick response from the Sebago Fire Department, assisted by the Standish, Bridgton, Naples and Hiram Fire Departments, the fire was contained to the garage and am Rhein's home and car were spared.
"Sebago Fire, stand by for tone," Michaud announced over the radio. Fire fighters hearing those words on their portable radios and pagers stopped what they were doing and headed for their vehicles. Seconds later, at 4:34 p.m. the loud alert tones sounded and Michaud said "Sebago Fire, report of a structure fire on Oak Road off Route 114, behind the Nazarene Church."
One by one the fire fighters responded as they drove to the stations to pick up fire engines and tank trucks. Sebago Fire Chief Ken Littlefield was one of the first to sign on and directed Dispatch to notify Standish and Bridgton Fire Departments to respond to the fire as well under standing mutual aid agreements with those towns.
Chief Littlefield arrived on the scene 9 minutes later, with Sebago fire fighter Ted Greene driving Engine 4 right behind him. They discovered that am Rhein's garage was fully engulfed by the fire, with flames shooting out of the roof 40 feet into the dark sky. Despite the rain falling hot embers were flying everywhere and a strong wind was blowing them towards the adjacent home. Parked between the garage and house was am Rhein's car. The fire consuming the garage was so intense that it threatened both the car and house.
Oak Road is a short, narrow drive off Shore Road, difficult for fire apparatus to maneuver to get to the scene. While Chief Littlefield was on the radio sizing up the fire he was also directing units to stage for the attack and setting up a water shuttle operation to supply water to the engines attacking the fire. Fire fighter Greene meanwhile turned the deck gun from Engine 4 onto the fire to knock it down and buy some time until more fire fighters and engines arrived to help.
Sebago Captain Carl Dolloff arrived on the scene with Engine 2 minutes later and set up a portable water reservoir (i.e. "dump tank"), while Sebago fire fighter Norm Storey backed Tank 1 down the narrow road and filled the dump tank. Captain Dolloff began supplying water to Engine 4 through a supply hose, and Sebago fire fighter Paul Field with two Standish fire fighters pulled 2 ½" and 1 ¾" hand lines from Engine 4 and attacked the fire from the front and rear. Soon thereafter a water supply point was set up at the intersection of Route 114 and Shore Road, where a Naples Fire Department engine supplied water from dump tanks set up there that were filled by tankers shuttling to and from the water supply point at Shute's mill pond. Traffic on Route 114 was stopped for a short while as a result.
"Be careful," am Rhein told Chief Littlefield. "I've got 20 to 25 gallons of gasoline in the garage, just to the right of the rear door." The fire was burning strongest in this area of the garage, so Chief Littlefield used his radio to caution all fire fighters to the hazard. Water was applied to the area, and luckily the gasoline did not explode.
By 6:12 p.m. the fire was knocked down and under control, and by 8:35 p.m. all units were back in their respective stations. Fire departments from five towns with nearly 50 firefighters and a dozen pieces of apparatus worked extremely well together to successfully contain the fire. The garage was lost, but am Rhein's home was spared without even any scorching. His car, parked between the garage and the home, suffered heat damage to the glass and paint, but was not consumed. The cause of the fire is unknown and is under investigation by the Fire Marshall's office.
"I don't know how much I can thank you for your quick response," am Rhein said. "I am very impressed at how quickly and efficiently the fire department came to my aid." Chief Littlefield responded "You're welcome. That's what we try to do."
Last updated November 16, 2005
Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree
Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree