LISBON – Eugene Pomerleau watched in disbelief Wednesday as his dreams went up in smoke.

Pomerleau was renovating a house he bought on Farwell Street in June. He was taking an early-afternoon break from the dusty, second-floor demolition to tinker on snowmobiles parked in the two-car garage he built this summer behind his new house.

When he emerged from the garage to look for his dog nearly an hour later, he noticed smoke seeping from the peak of his 1½-story cape, he said.

He ran into the house hoping to find the source of the smoke, but stopped at the stairs, where a curtain of clear plastic he had used to block the dust showed a wall of black smoke behind it, he said.

Pomerleau said he bolted through the door outside and dialed 911 on his cell phone. While on the phone, he noticed flames shooting from the roof.

Firefighters knocked down the blaze by 2:30 p.m., but smoke continued to billow from the roof and eaves. An unmanned engine ladder hovered over the east side of the roof as firefighters came and went from the first floor.

Firefighters remained at the scene until 7:30 p.m. Lisbon crews were assisted throughout the day by firefighters from Lisbon Falls, Topsham, Lewiston and Durham.

Pomerleau said it was possible some of the old wiring had sparked the blaze, and by the end of the day, fire officials shared that opinion. Lisbon Fire Chief P. Sean Galipeau said the State Fire Marshal’s Office believed the fire might have started with wiring in a crawl space on the second floor.

Pomerleau said he and his fiancee had stayed the night on Tuesday. He smelled a “hint of burning rubber that drove me nuts.” He searched the house, but found nothing to explain it, he said.

He bought the dilapidated house off Route 196 in an ironic sort of swap, selling his former home to his new building’s previous owner.

The home is insured, but likely not enough to cover the money he put into it since he bought it, Pomerleau said. The home was gutted, and Galipeau estimated damages at $150,000.

“I have a feeling I’m going to lose a lot of money,” Pomerleau said. “I’m flat broke now.”

He had replaced the electrical wiring on all of the exterior and in half of the basement, he said.

It was part of a four-year plan. He would fix up the home, then sell it when his 14-year-old son was ready to go to college. Pomerleau said he would move to a lake house.

He invested about $45,000 in the new house, including labor and materials, rebuilding a dormer on the front, and adding an ell and the detached garage. He did much of the work himself, he said.

Pomerleau said he didn’t know what he would do when the smoke cleared.

“I’m sick to my stomach about this whole thing. It was all a dream. A step toward my final dream,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve got it in me now to rebuild this place. I really don’t know.”

Sun Journal freelancer Connie Footman contributed to this report


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