No one was home when a fire started that consumed much of a waterfront cottage on Rutherford Island in South Bristol on Saturday, May 14.
A neighbor reported the fire at 163 Miles Road in the Christmas Cove area, according to Bristol 1st Assistant Fire Chief Jared Pendleton, but it was already too late for the home.
The Lincoln County Communications Center dispatched the South Bristol Fire Department at 10:33 a.m. and the Bristol, Damariscotta, and Newcastle departments a minute later.
“It was visible from McDonald’s (in Damariscotta) when we got paged out and it was visible from New Harbor, so it was well out through the roof,” Pendleton said.
Firefighters focused on protecting nearby structures, like a two-car garage on the property and a home next door. “It was basically a defensive attack,” Pendleton said.
A South Bristol firefighter suffering from heat exhaustion was treated at the scene by the South Bristol First Responders and taken to LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta by the Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service.
“He’s fine,” South Bristol Fire Chief Mark Carrothers said. “He was taken up to Miles, checked out, and released. He actually came back to the scene, but on limited duty until he was cleared by his doctor.”
The firefighters had to deal with challenges specific to the home, the neighborhood, and the weather.
“This being a log home, there’s really no fire stops in it,” Pendleton said. “There’s a huge fuel load, where it’s all log and not sheetrocked.
“You don’t have much of a chance. If it’s early, early notification, there’s somebody in the house, then you have a chance with these, but other than that, when a neighbor sees it or somebody sees it from across the water, it’s all over with before you even get a call.”
Miles Road – a dirt road of mostly seasonal homes – presented another challenge.
“It’s a long, narrow, almost-a-mile-long road, dead-end, so access is awful,” Pendleton said. Bristol firefighters ran several hundred feet of hose from the scene to a water source down the road.
Like a fire that destroyed an old farmhouse in Sheepscot on Thursday, May 12, wind contributed to the South Bristol fire, according to Pendleton.
The Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated the fire.
“They haven’t made any determination, but he didn’t think it was suspicious,” Carrothers said.
The Rutherford Island property has a sweeping view of John’s Bay. The property was for sale for $550,000, according to a listing on realtor.com, and a sale was pending.
According to the listing, the cottage was built in 1965. It had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and sits on 1 acre of land with 250 feet of shoreline.
The home and the garage, which has living quarters on the second floor, were “in need of renovation,” according to the listing. The town lists the value of the property at $1,361,900.
Town records list Herlof Sorensen as the owner of the property.
Three friends of the family were staying in the cottage at the time of the fire. Sorensen’s friends were “really lucky they got out of the place,” Carrothers said. “They had left half an hour before the fire was reported and it was fast-moving.”
A small group of South Bristol firefighters were first on scene and were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the garage and nearby homes, according to Carrothers.
The Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, and Newcastle fire departments also responded to the scene. The Nobleboro and Waldoboro fire departments provided station coverage for Damariscotta and Bremen, respectively.
“Thanks to all the mutual-aid towns for helping out,” Carrothers said.
The Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, and the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office also responded to the scene.
Central Maine Power Co. responded and cut power to Miles Road. Carrothers estimated that the outage lasted about 6 1/2 hours.
Toby Plummer, of Plummer Excavation, responded with an excavator to knock down the shell of the building.
The South Bristol Fire Department cleared the scene at around 5:30 p.m. and returned at 7 p.m. for a report of a rekindle.
“All it was was smoke. There were no flames, so we just put a little more water on it to be on the safe side and we were out of there by an hour later,” Carrothers said.
Pendleton had command of the scene throughout much of the attack as Carrothers was attending his son Tom Carrothers’ graduation from the University of Maine at Augusta.