Separate fires destroyed two York County homes – in Arundel and Acton – on Friday, and in both cases investigators say there was too much damage to determine the cause.

The Acton fire chief suffered smoke inhalation but no one else was injured in the fires.

A fire at 728 Alfred Road in Arundel drew engines and tankers from eight communities, as firefighters worked to quell a raging fire that ripped through the house late Friday morning before crews had a chance to save it.

As engines shuttled water from hydrants and fire ponds, eastbound traffic was backed up almost a mile for 2½ hours. Some cars were able to detour around the area.

Tom Waterman, who had lived at the house on Route 111 across from Ledge Cliff Drive since 2008, stared in shock as he watched flames devour his two-story farmhouse and the attached garage where he keeps his tools. He said he hauls junk cars for a living, and a sign out front reads “Cash for Junk Cars.”

Waterman said the feeling of seeing his house on fire was indescribable.

Debbie Harris, who lives across the street, said she noticed smoke coming out of the eaves of the house at 11:30 a.m. and called 911. By the time firefighters arrived, she could see flames.

Harris also phoned Waterman, who said he was at a Biddeford bank and planned to go shopping when he got the call that his house was on fire.

His longtime friend and neighbor Joseph Donegan said he hoped the firefighters could save some of Waterman’s possessions, especially his flatbed tow truck.

“We’re all here working to survive, and then something like this happens,” Donegan said. He described Waterman as “a hell of a guy – take his shirt off his back for you.”

Donegan got a call from Waterman’s girlfriend saying the family cat was inside the house, but by the time he ran the short distance to the house it was too dangerous to go inside.

“There was nothing I could do,” Donegan said.

Firefighters spent two hours dousing the fire with water from large engine-mounted water guns and hand lines. Crews from Kennebunkport, Goodwins Mills, Biddeford, Saco, Alfred, Hollis and others responded and helped shuttle water.

Deputy Chief Renald Tardif said when firefighters arrived, there were flames spreading from the corner where the large garage meets the house.

“We tried to make entry, but the stairwell had already collapsed,” he said. Nobody was home at the time of the fire, he said.

The Red Cross was notified to help provide temporary shelter for Waterman and his girlfriend until they make other arrangements, Tardif said.

Fire also destroyed a home at 1077 Hopper Road in Acton on Friday morning.

Firefighters were called to the fire at 6:45 a.m. by a passer-by who saw smoke pouring out of the eaves of the 2½-story house.

Assistant Fire Chief David Langley said there was no chance to save the house.

Firefighters from Acton, Lebanon, Sanford, Shapleigh and Milton Mills responded to the scene, according to the Sanford emergency dispatch center, but they were still challenged by a lack of manpower, Langley said. At that time of the morning, many of the engines arrived with only one or two firefighters on board, he said.

It took firefighters two hours to bring the fire under control.

Fire Chief Peter Smith, 46, of Acton suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to Southern Maine Health Care in Sanford, where he was treated and released, according to the York County Sheriff’s Office.

Nobody was home at the time of the fire. Langley said the resident had spent the night elsewhere and returned home Friday morning to get ready for work and found the firefighters there. He has family in the area with whom he will be staying, Langley said.

An excavator was brought in to demolish the structure, which had collapsed on the interior, Langley said.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office sent investigators to both fires, but a spokesman said the damage was too extensive to determine a cause.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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Twitter: @Mainehenchman