MEXICO – A 1994 Caterpillar delimber was destroyed early Thursday afternoon when it caught fire on a logging road off Route 120.
Fire Chief Gary Wentzell said firetrucks were unable to navigate the steep, dirt road to the delimber. Firefighters instead resorted to using several 4-wheel-drive pickup trucks and ATVs. Once at the site of the machinery firefighters used a portable pump to take water from a nearby brook to fight the blaze.
Compounding the incident were winds and very dry ground. Because of that, and because of Wednesday’s rash of forest and brush fires, Wentzell said four or five fire departments and nearly 40 firefighters were called out.
“Because of the dryness, we feared a forest fire,” said Wentzell.
The unidentified operator of the delimber is an employee of Adam Gammon, a local logger. Wentzell said Gammon, along with three employees, used a skidder at the site to build dirt barriers between the delimber and the trees in an effort to prevent the spread of the flames.
He said the driver was checked out by Med-Care Ambulance Service for minor smoke inhalation.
About 30 gallons of fuel spilled from the delimber. Wentzell said a representative from the state Department of Environmental Protection was expected to inspect the site late Thursday. He said none of the fuel reached the brook.
He estimated the value of the delimber at about $125,000. He said Gammon was insured.
Besides the Mexico Fire Department, firefighters from Rumford, Andover, Peru and Dixfield responded. Rumford police and Mexico volunteers helped direct traffic for several hours.