WINDHAM – Despite its near-inaccessible location down a long and narrow dirt road, Windham firefighters made quick work of a house fire off River Road near the Westbrook town line on Sunday night.

According to Windham Fire Chief Charles Hammond, the call for the blaze at 20 Aroostook Drive came in at 8:22 p.m., after plastic storage containers located close to a kerosene heater ignited in the garage.

The occupants of the home – two adults and five children – managed to escape. The father suffered some smoke inhalation and burned fingers but declined medical attention, Hammond added. The family members were tenants of the two-level home with a garage in the basement.

Besides several broken windows, smoke and water damage and some melted siding, damage was limited to the garage area.

In addition to Windham responders, Westbrook, Gray, Gorham and Standish sent engines and tankers to the fire scene, which was located about 3,000 feet from River Road. First responders used handheld fire extinguishers to keep the fire at bay until heavier amounts of water could be used. In all, it took seven to 10 minutes for firefighters to start attacking the fire once the call was received, Hammond said.

Since there were no nearby hydrants or ponds, Hammond used tanker trucks to ferry water from a hydrant at the intersection of River Road and Rousseau Road to two 5,000-gallon folding storage pools erected at the intersection of River Road and Aroostook Drive. Several pumper trucks then pumped the water out of the storage tanks through the 3,000 feet of 5-inch hose to the fire scene. Once the conveyance system was in place, the fire was under control within 30 minutes.

“We had troubles getting the vehicles in there because the road was so slippery,” Hammond said. “It was ice covered, and at one time we had a couple vehicles that were stuck on the ice. But eventually we got them out of the way, backed them out and put them in another roadway so we could get up the roadway with the vehicles which had drop down (tire) chains.

“In the meantime first responders were trying to put it out with fire extinguishers and pressurized water cans to buy us some time until we got the apparatus where they needed to be and get the water supply set up. It takes a while to lay out 3,000 feet of hose. And it gets complicated when you have long-distance private roads that are very narrow.”

Much of the damage took place in the garage located underneath the living space. Structurally, Hammond said there’s not a lot of damage mainly due to the modern construction of the home.

“If you put a garage under a house like they did, you’re required to put two layers of fire resistant sheetrock and a fire door to separate the main house from where you keep the vehicle,” Hammond said. “And that construction technique allowed us to have some time before it actually burned into any structural components of the house.”

Hammond said 30 to 40 firefighters responded to the scene, which helped particularly while laying the hose and recoiling the heavy hose afterward.

Contents of the garage lay in the front yard of 20 Aroostook
Drive in Windham on Monday, the day after firefighters fought a
blaze that started when a plastic storage container placed near a
kerosene heater caught fire. (Staff photo by John Balentine)

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