ANDOVER — Residents of this small community are on edge after suspicious fires destroyed two large, vacant homesteads on both ends of Main Street, Fire Chief Jim Adler said Monday.
Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said Monday that blazes Friday and Saturday nights were deliberately ignited.
“Results from our on-scene examination and information provided to us by witnesses (show) that both fires were intentionally set,” Sgt. Ken Grimes said.
“People in town are a little anxious,” Adler said Monday. “They know something is suspicious. People are on edge (and) it makes it hard for us firefighters to go to sleep at night.”
He said the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office is doing more patrols as a result of the fires.
Adler said he contacted the Fire Marshal’s Office because “the buildings had no power to them and they had no heat source, they had no wood stove, they had nothing that would have started a fire without some form of assistance.”
“It was kind of a landmark in Andover,” Adler said, and hadn’t been occupied for about 30 years.
Town Clerk Melinda Averill said Monday evening that her father, Roger Mills, 88, grew up in the house.
“My father had a heart attack over this Saturday night,” she said. He was being treated at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, she said.
The homestead was owned by Roger Mills’ daughter, Patricia Cox, of Dixfield, and contained family heirlooms and memorabilia, Averill said.
Cox owns Mills Market next to the family homestead, Averill said.
A fire early Friday evening destroyed a two-story, Victorian-style house and barn at 126 North Main St., Adler said. The 30- by-42-foot house was engulfed in flames when the first firefighters arrived. The house and the barn, which was about 28 by 28 feet, were empty and had been vacant for several years, he said.
The property was owned by a financial institution, Averill said Monday.
In both fires, crews from Andover, Rumford, Roxbury, Mexico, Dixfield and Peru fought a losing battle, drawing water from town hydrants.
For Adler, who has been a member of the Andover Fire Department for years, the fires were the first since he was elected chief last month.
“Usually I go to a scene and I only have to worry about my task and my goal,” he said after Friday night’s fire. “When you’re chief, you worry about everybody’s task and goal.”
Since taking over leadership of the department, he’s been able to get former members to return, bringing the force up to 13, he said.
Adler said his department is assisting in the effort to find those responsible for the destruction.
“The Fire Marshal’s Office is doing an investigation and we’re hoping they can get to the bottom of it, and we’re hoping we don’t have any more structure fires for a long time,” he said.
Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call the the Fire Marshal’s Office at 207-626-3870 or state police at 207-657-3030, Grimes said.
Members of the Andover Fire Department battled two fires in vacant buildings on Friday and Saturday nights. Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said Monday that both blazes were intentionally set. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)
Andover Fire Chief Jim Adler stands in the Andover Volunteer Fire Station earlier this year. Since being elected chief last month, his department has battled two major fires, which a state investigator said Monday were intentionally set. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)