MECHANIC FALLS — A Minot volunteer firefighter was charged with arson Monday night after a fire broke out shortly after 3 p.m. at the Loose Caboose Restaurant.
Joshua Michaud, 18, of Mechanic Falls, was charged with one count of arson after four investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office combed the scene for close to seven hours.
After piecing together evidence and interviewing witnesses, officials made the arrest at 9:15 p.m., according to Sgt. Joel Davis of the State Fire Marshal's Office.
More than 50 firefighters from eight neighboring towns fought the stubborn fire started at the rear wall of the restaurant next to railroad tracks. The building sustained about $30,000 in damage.
Michaud, who faces up to 30 years in jail for the Class A crime, has been cooperative, Davis said.
Quick action by several local firefighters kept the Maple Street fire from spreading and possibly destroying the building.
Fire Chief Fred Sturtevant said Private Chris Arsenault and Private Randy Madore were able to keep the fire from spreading with the assistance of a second engine carrying three more firefighters as others made it to the scene.
“We were lucky the fire did not spread more. We could still be dumping water on it,” Sturtevant said.
No injuries were reported, but heat and humidity made the firefighting efforts more difficult, he said.
Officials investigated evidence in the two-level wooden building that measures about 75-feet by 100-feet.
Sturtevant said initial reports indicated that the fire spread through the roof into the banquet area affecting a portion of the building that he described as being about as large as a living room. Extensive damage was visible on the middle of the back outside wall and on the front door where chains and heavy safety glass initially delayed the firefighters' entrance.
Restaurant Manager Anette Annance, who lives nearby, said she was about to open the restaurant at 3:30 for another waitress and bartender for the dinner hour when she saw the smoke coming from the railroad track side of the building off Pearl Street.
The building, which was once an old railroad building but was renovated about 10 years ago as a warehouse and then several restaurants, including Rockin' Roscoe's and most recently the Loose Caboose, contains a dinner area on two levels, a billiards room and lounge. The building is insured, Annance said.
Owners Mike Hemond and Brittany Deblois, who were on their way to New Hampshire for a concert, were called by their alarm company to inform them of the fire.
“We haven't had a night off since we opened,” said Deblois, who along with Hemond are leasing the building from the owner of Rockin' Roscoes, which is now located on Route 302 in Raymond. “We were on our way to the concert when the alarm company called,” she said.
The fire spread into a suspended ceiling, which made the work to completely douse it difficult, Sturtevant said.
Some 50 firefighters from Oxford, Poland, Paris, Minot, Norway and Auburn assisted Mechanic Falls at the scene with the Mechanic Falls 75-foot-tall ladder truck and a 100-foot-tall ladder truck from Auburn. An Otisfield engine also arrived later for backup.