A Jan. 24 fire on Crummett Mountain Road in Somerville destroyed a farmhouse and a barn, and took the life of resident Cecil Brann, 92. Brann’s death is being called the first fire-related death of 2013.
Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said “the exact cause of the fire will likely go down as undetermined” because of the extensive damage to the home.
“It likely started in the kitchen area, and that’s where [Brann] was found, and that’s where the first on the scene said the fire was showing,” McCausland said on Jan. 29.
Several fire departments responded to the initial call of a structure fire at the residence at about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 24. As of about 4 p.m. only a portion of the roof, a few sections of walls and three chimneys remained standing, and flames leaped 15 to 20 feet above the burning wreckage.
Departments from Somerville, Jefferson, Chelsea, North Whitefield, and Coopers Mills were all at the scene early on to combat the blaze. Soon though, trucks and equipment were icing up due to the freezing temperatures.
“Everything was starting to freeze,” Dostie said. “The moment you shut down for something to change trucks, the truck that was leaving would freeze up and it was no longer usable.”
More trucks were called out from Pittston, China, and Waldoboro to assist, but tankers were useless after their first run because they froze up during the long trip to refill, Dostie said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of truck damage from the freezes,” Dostie said. Two of Somerville’s firetrucks are down because of the damage, he said.
The firefighters worked through the evening, and eventually had to abandon their effort until the morning.
“We left at midnight, and then we were back there at 5, and we’re just cleared there now,” Dostie said at about 1 p.m. on Jan. 25.
An excavator was brought up to knock down the remaining debris, and the scene will probably continue to produce smoke for up to a week due to the smoldering ashes underneath the pile, Dostie said.
Dostie said he’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the effort of fighting the fire, including the neighbors who brought up soup, sandwiches and coffee for all the firefighters.
“I’d like to thank all those mutual aid departments that showed up, even some that aren’t our mutual aid,” Dostie said.
According to Brann’s obituary, in 2009 Brann donated 250 acres to the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, to become the Cecil and Virginia Brann Memorial Forest,.
The forest, which is just a few miles from Brann’s home, is registered as a Maine tree farm and has stipulations that it be kept as a working forest and kept open to the public.