GREENWOOD — A volunteer firefighter was charged with two counts of arson in connection with fires that destroyed two vacant homes on Route 26 early Tuesday morning. There were no injuries.
Jeffrey A. Tyler, 28, of 60 Paris Road in Bethel was arrested at about 3 p.m. by state fire investigators and taken to the Oxford County Jail in Paris, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said.
Tyler remained in custody Tuesday night with bail set at $100,000 worth of property or $20,000 cash, according to information from the jail. He is employed at a wood-chipping mill in West Paris, according to his booking sheet.
Tyler was a volunteer firefighter with the Greenwood Fire Department,
which participated in the investigation, McCausland said.
Investigators said Tyler set fire to the rear of one of the buildings in Locke Mills village and the fire jumped to a next-door house, destroying both.
Town Manager Kim Sparks said the houses were at 236 and 238
Main St. The former was in the name of C. Mellen Kimball, while the
latter was owned by Bruce Connor of Chelmsford, Mass.
"(The houses) have been here a long time," Sparks said. "They were part of the village, so a lot of people were sad to see them go."
Six fire departments responded to the blaze, which was reported shortly after 3:15 a.m.
"We had a very strong wind blowing from the original fire building to the next one over, and that caused the second one to go up," Greenwood fire Chief Jim Owens said.
He said it was not feasible to fight the blaze from inside the buildings.
Embers blew toward the nearby Round Pond Corner Store and as far away as the town's fire station on Howe Hill Road, about 3 miles as the crow flies.
"We actually had embers blowing in the front door of the fire station," Owens said. "We had a lot of work to do in a short period of time."
Firefighters from Greenwood, Woodstock, West Paris, Bethel, Newry and Paris were stationed at nearby buildings to make sure the embers did not spark any new fires. Route 26 was shut down for about five hours and traffic detoured while firefighters knocked down the flames.