A week after a fire destroyed a former pet store on U.S. Route 2 in Pittsfield June 16, a fire destroyed two buildings Sunday in Palmyra, also on U.S. Route 2.

Both properties were unoccupied at the time of the fires and both fires occurred in the wee hours of Sunday morning, drawing firefighters from area towns in the middle of the night to fight them.

The Pittsfield and Palmyra fires, which occurred 8 miles apart, are being investigated by the state fire marshal’s office, fire chiefs in the two towns have confirmed. Calls placed to that office over two days were not returned. That is not unusual, however, when state fire investigators are in the middle of investigating such cases and have not resolved them.

The Pittsfield fire destroyed the former pet store June 16 at 456 Canaan Road, also U.S. Route 2, but firefighters were able to save an unoccupied house that is about 3 feet from the structure, according to Pittsfield Fire Chief Bernard Williams, who confirmed Thursday that the fire is suspicious in nature.

The fire was reported at 12:58 a.m. and firefighters from seven towns worked at the scene. The house and the former store have been unoccupied about three years and had no electrical power, according to Williams. He estimated the former store, which is U-shaped and had a connector, was about 1,500 to 1,800 square feet in size. Inside the building were various items including furniture. The fire appeared to have started in the building’s south wing, and when Williams got there, it was engulfed in flame, he said.

The property, about 3 miles from the Canaan town line, is owned by the town of Pittsfield, which took it for nonpayment of taxes and maintains only liability insurance on it, according to Williams. The fire marshal’s office inspected the scene June 17, the day after the fire, he said.


Firefighters from Pittsfield, Canaan, Detroit, Hartland, St. Albans, Newport and Skowhegan worked at the fire scene, and Pittsfield police and Sebasticook Valley Ambulance also responded, according to Williams.

The town-owned building that burned early Sunday morning, June 16, 2019, on U.S. Route 2 in Pittsfield has not been occupied for at least a few years, according to Pittsfield Fire Chief Bernard Williams. Morning Sentinel file photo by Amy Calder

The Palmyra fire was reported at 1372 Main St., also U.S. Route 2, at 2:40 a.m. Sunday at the former Adams Schoolhouse, which was built in the early 1900s and had been converted to a home, according to Palmyra Fire Chief Don Chute. He said the building had been vacant about 10 years but declined to identify the property owner. He said efforts over two days to reach the property owner to determine if it was insured have been unsuccessful.

Chute said Tuesday that the fire destroyed not only the unoccupied house, which he estimated to be 24 by 40 feet in size, but also a nearby outbuilding, which is about 16 by 24 feet, and melted the vinyl siding and cracked windows on a nearby mobile home.

“The main house was burnt flat when we arrived on scene,” he said.

About 45 firefighters from Palmyra, Newport, Pittsfield, Hartland, St. Albans, Detroit and Corinna went to the scene; and Plymouth and Canaan firefighters stood by at fire stations, he said. They left the scene about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, he said.

The Palmyra fire occurred about a quarter-mile south of the Walmart on U.S. Route 2, and on the opposite side of the road.


Chute called the fire’s occurrence a week after the Pittsfield fire, around the same time and in unoccupied buildings, “unnerving.”

On Tuesday a pile of burned wood and home furnishings is all that is left of a home along Route 2 in Palmyra that was destroyed by fire on Sunday. The siding on a nearby mobile home melted.

Asked if there could be a connection between that and the Pittsfield fire, Chute said the state fire marshal’s office is investigating the fires and “we’re not saying one and one equals two, but this was also vacant and happened around the same time frame, so there’s obviously something going on.”

“We haven’t ruled anything out,” Chute said. “I’m sure the fire marshal’s taking a good look at everything.”

He said all the firefighters worked well together Sunday and did a good job of protecting the nearby mobile home, which was on a separate lot and likely was built in the 1980s.

“I think we had a great response,” he said.

At the Palmyra scene Tuesday morning, all that was left of the main house was a foundation and charred debris including stoves, a freezer, furniture, a hot water tank and an air conditioner. An above-ground swimming pool, swing set and other debris were between the foundation and the mobile home.

The outbuilding behind the house foundation also was leveled and tires, mufflers and other car parts lay in the rubble. A riding lawnmower and large satellite dish were near the pile.


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