BUCKFIELD — A fire that destroyed a small business and severely damaged the owner’s adjoining home was likely caused by a furnace, the town’s fire chief said Friday.
Chief Steve Campbell of the Buckfield Fire Department said an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was at 177 Depot St. on Friday morning. Campbell said the blaze was believed to be related to a hot-air, kerosene-burning furnace located in the garage, where the fire started.
The fire was further fueled by combustible materials in the garage, which housed the auto and small engine repair business Streaked Mountain Motor Group. Campbell said the materials included oxygen and acetylene tanks, and a 55-gallon drum of used motor oil. Their ignition would have accounted for the explosions reported by witnesses.
“Between those fuel sources and being a large open dry wood building, which is typical of that type of structure, it burned very hot,” he said. “It moved very quickly. And we had a windy night besides.”
The fire occurred at about 9 p.m. Thursday. Campbell said the garage was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived, and a connection between the garage and the house of owners Gregory and Kerri Forget had also started to burn.
Firefighters were able to stop the spread of the flames after they made their way into the upper floors of the house, but the structure still sustained heavy fire and water damage. Campbell said the Forgets were able to salvage some personal items, but he did not believe the house could be repaired.
Gregory suffered smoke inhalation and was treated at the scene, and a firefighter was treated for a cut hand. Campbell said the family also had a couple of cats, but they were allowed to go outside so it was uncertain whether they had been in the building at the time of the fire. One was seen on Friday morning.
Campbell said no vehicles were in the garage when the fire broke out. A pickup truck near the garage caught fire, but other vehicles had been moved out of the driveway by the time firefighters arrived.
The Buckfield, Hebron, Sumner, Turner, Paris and Norway fire departments responded to the blaze.