Rumford driver escapes burning motorhome on Route 2

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RUMFORD — Friday the 13th lived up to its billing for Rodney Kneeland.

Kneeland, 37, of Rumford, had just sold his 1978 Allegro motor home and was delivering it to the new owner, driving west on Route 2, when the engine caught fire, he said.

“I was just driving down the road when I smelled smoke and lifted the engine hood cowling from the inside and noticed the fire,” he said.

He pulled into a driveway just before the Andover Road intersection and tried to extinguish it with antifreeze and windshield washer fluid — the only things he had available.

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However, that just made it worse, Kneeland said.

Shortly after exiting the burning 22-foot-long vehicle, it flashed over. All he could do was watch it burn, he said.

Rumford police officer Dave Hodgson was the first responder to arrive, because he was the closest when the 911 call was routed through dispatchers in Paris.

“It was fully involved, big time,” Hodgson said. “I could see the smoke before I came around the corner.”

Thick white smoke could be seen erupting into the sky from a distance down a long line of halted westbound traffic.

Several Rumford firefighters arrived shortly after Hodgson and quickly set up to extinguish the blaze.

“The fire was just rolling out of it,” Deputy Chief Chris Bryant said. “It had a good header of smoke, and the thing was fully involved.”

Luckily, the wind was blowing northeast, which prevented power and utility lines overhead from burning also.

Bryant and Brad Adley of Adley’s Auto Sales and Towing in Rumford said everyone was lucky in that there wasn’t any propane in tanks aboard the motor home.

“That would have been just like a bomb going off,” Adley said.

Although firefighters quickly knocked down the flames, traffic was halted for about 20 minutes, backing up in long lines on Route 2 and Andover Road.

As for Kneeland, his bad luck didn’t end with the total loss of his motor home.

Hodgson summonsed him for driving an unregistered motor vehicle.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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