WEST PARIS — A barn was destroyed Tuesday by a blaze that ignited a propane tank and sent a plume of smoke high enough to be seen from Auburn.
Fire departments from at least eight towns responded to the fully engulfed barn at the Inn at Pinnacle Mountain. Flames consumed a large barn, but the inn was not damaged.
Firefighters set up water pools to fight the fire, which was reported at about 3 p.m., and warned responders about getting too close to two nearby propane tanks. At the height of the fire, one of the tanks started leaking and a plume of fire could be seen spouting directly upward from that tank, according to firefighters.
"The fire was hot enough to blow off the pressure-relief valve on one of the tanks," said Capt. Troy Billings of the Paris Fire Department. "After that, we had to just let if burn off. That's the proper way to contain a propane-tank leak."
When firefighters arrived and saw how far gone the barn was, their primary goal was to protect the rest of the property, Billings said. The fire was reported under control just after 4:30 p.m.
Billings later said firefighters had a difficult time reaching the inn.
"We tried to lay hoses up over the hill, but because of the elevation, we weren't able to supply the water," Billings said. "We had to return to the drawing board, adapt and overcome, the way firefighters always do."
Billings, who happened to be nearby when the fire started, was one of two people who saw smoke coming from the barn and called for emergency response. He said innkeeper John LemMon was the only one on the property when the fire started.
LemMon was working in his office on the third floor of the inn when a neighbor called to tell him the barn was on fire.
LemMon told firefighters that no one had been in the barn for at least two days. The cause of the fire was not determined. State Fire Marshal Dan Young was called to investigate.
West Paris fire Chief Norm St. Pierre said John LemMon was "very shook up" and would not be able to comment.
The inn, once a private residence, and the barn were built in 1993. John and Mary LemMon purchased the property in 2011 and converted it into a three-bedroom-suite inn with fine dining. With expansive views of the Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire and the Green Mountains in Vermont, the inn is known for luxury accommodations.
According to municipal records, the assessed value of the property, including the homestead and barn, is more than $300,000.
Firefighters from West Paris, Greenwood, Woodstock, Paris, Norway, Buckfield, Sumner and Turner responded to the blaze.