March 24, 2013

Bingham blazes destroy garage, damage business

Authorities suspect that the two fires on Saturday night were deliberately set by the same person.

By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel

BINGHAM - Fires that destroyed the town garage and damaged an ice cream shop on Main Street Saturday night probably were started by the same person, a state fire investigation supervisor said.

click image to enlarge

Arthur Kennedy and friend Ceri Zeolla look over the burned remains of the Bingham Town Garage and equipment that was destroyed by fire late Saturday evening. Kennedy, who plows for the town, said he believes the fire was intentional.

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

No one was hurt in either blaze, but the town garage on Owens Street and numerous public works vehicles were destroyed, officials said.

Because the fires occurred within two hours of each other, investigators think they were started by the same person, said Sgt. Joel Davis of the state Fire Marshal's Office. "It was more than coincidence," he said.

Davis said four fire investigators worked through the night to rule out accidental causes of the fires and have established conclusively that they were the work of an arsonist.

Davis estimated damage to the building and vehicles at $500,000.

A tractor, a sewage tank truck, a trailer, a plow truck and a bucket loader were destroyed. A second plow truck parked outside the building was damaged, but firefighters were able to save part of it by dousing it with foam and water to protect it from the flames.

The plow trucks and bucket loader are worth about $100,000, estimated the owner, Arthur Kennedy of Pleasant Ridge, whose company, Kennedy Construction, has done the town's plowing for the past six years.

The two trucks were outside the garage, but parked close so that engine heaters could be plugged into outlets inside the building, he said.

The ice cream shop, Here's the Scoop, is owned by Scott and Vicki Stanchfield, who work and live next door at the Riverside Inn.

The shop's interior was damaged extensively, Vicki Stanchfield said.

She said the couple was chatting and watching television with their son and daughter-in-law shortly before 9 p.m. when they noticed the ice cream shop was on fire.

"There were flames shooting out of the windows," she said. Their son used a fire extinguisher to battle the flames from outside until the fire department arrived.

Fire Chief Scott Laweryson said 18 firefighters responded to the town garage about 10:30 p.m. after a neighbor noticed it was on fire and called 911.

He said the vehicles and equipment in the four-bay garage were damaged "pretty much beyond the point of recognition."

Kennedy said he could continue to provide plowing services for most weather conditions by using the company's pickup trucks.

Davis said investigators are pursuing leads and conducting interviews.

"We could make an arrest in an hour; it could be a week," he said.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

 

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