POLAND — The fire chief credited a Mechanic Falls police officer’s keen observation and quick thinking for saving tens of thousands of dollars worth of athletic and maintenance equipment at Poland Regional High School on Monday night.

Chief Mark Bosse said that if it hadn’t been for early detection of smoke coming out the eaves of the field house at the school, flames from a burning lawn mower inside could have likely spread to other pieces of maintenance equipment. Given the construction of the building, which houses all of the school’s athletic equipment,Bosse said the fire could have engulfed the building in flames in a short time had it not been caught so early.

Mechanic Falls police officer William Cook called in the blaze at about 7 p.m. after a passing motorist stopped Cook to say there seemed to be a lot of steam coming from the structure. Cook, who was running radar at Poland Five Corners, decided to drive across the road and check out the building himself, rather than waiting for a sheriff’s deputy to arrive.

Cook said that when he got closer to the building, he realized that what looked like steam was actually smoke. As he opened the gate leading up to the field house from the road, he saw thick, dark smoke coming from the building and immediately called for help.

Bosse said more than 40 firefighters and rescue personnel from Poland, Mechanic Falls and Oxford responded to the fire.

“By 7 p.m., it’s getting dark and the only way someone would have noticed it would have been flames shooting from the building,” Bosse said.

He said that crews were able to quickly knock down the blaze and contain most of the damage to the side of the storage building that housed maintenance equipment for the school grounds. The school’s athletic equipment did not sustain fire or water damage,Bosse said, but there was heavy heat and smoke damage.

Bosse said that investigators will return to the building tomorrow to try to determine the cause of the lawn mower fire. He said he spoke with staff from the school’s maintenance crew, who ran the mower Monday afternoon without incident.

“Poland doesn’t really have all that much money to pay for all that stuff,” said Jen Powell, 15, a sophomore at Poland Regional High School. “We’re hoping there’s insurance on everything. I was crying.”

Powell was one of several onlookers who stood in silence across the football field as fire crews on ladder trucks made their way to the roof of the building. She and her friends pointed out that the athletic boosters had recently invested in new equipment for several school sports. They all remained hopeful that the equipment would be salvageable.

“With the way everything is right now with taxes and the economy, they don’t need any more heartache,” Cook said.

Firefighters from Poland, Mechanic Falls and Oxford responded to a fire at a Poland Regional High School storage building Monday night.

Firefighters from Poland, Mechanic Falls and Oxford responded to a fire at a Poland Regional High School storage building Monday night.


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