Media Archive

Officials still investigating fire in Derby

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 164, No. 20, May 15, 2002

By Sarah MacIlroy
Staff Writer

DERBY Officials are still searching for answers more than a week after a fire broke out in the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad yard consuming more than an acre of land.

What started out as a grass fire last Tuesday afternoon eventually turned into a raging fire with flames, at one point, reaching 40 feet in the air witnesses said.

"Gary Cook (of the Maine Forest Service) is still investigating," Forest Ranger Jim Dowme said early this week. "But it looks like the fire was of human origin,"

Downie said he feels very fortunate that workers were able to contain the fire. Because of dry conditions and the close proximity of homes, the forest service dispatched two helicopters and "as much man power as they could spare" to help douse the flames.

"I think the helicopters made a big difference," Downie said.

With creosote-soaked railroad ties fueling the flames, it took the two helicopters and the 10 responding fire departments several hours to tame the blaze.

Milo Fire Department member Murrel Harris said the fire wasn't declared officially out until about 4 p.m. last Wednesday.

Reporting to the scene were firefighters from Alton, Bradford, Lagrange, Sebec, Guilford, Brownville, Brownville Junction, Sangerville, Dover-Poxcroft and Cambridge, in addition to Maine Forest Service responders.

At the peak of the incident about 115 workers battled the blaze. Harris said that during the 20 years he has worked with the Milo Fire Department he doesn't remember a fire that demanded that amount of back-up support.

"The chief appreciated the prompt response from all departments that were being called for assistance," Harris said.

Additional support was supplied by the Three Rivers Ambulance and the Dover EMS, Harris said. Women's Auxiliary, along with several local citizens and businesses, provided relief in the form of food, water and sandwiches and eventually, a spaghetti dinner for the crew.

"We had about eight people that were on call for about 26 hours," Harris said.

The Maine Forest Service found itself stretched thin, as well. About 8 p.m. Tuesday night, an earlier grass fire next to the Canadian-American railroad tracks in Willimantic flared up. According to Downie, the Forest Service and a crew from Brownville worked until about midnight to extinguish that fire.

Railroad fires are not uncommon, Downie said. Each year about 70 different fires consume about 250 acres in the state.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.