MONMOUTH — Fire ripped through an former three-story chicken coop turned workshop Tuesday afternoon at 235 South Monmouth Road, leveling the building and catching an adjacent field on fire.

Crews from Monmouth, Litchfield, Sabattus, Winthrop, Wales, Bowdoinham and Bowdoin and Winthrop Ambulance responded around 3:04 p.m. to the blaze that could be seen from parts of Lewiston and Topsham. The building was owned by A.D. Electric and used as a shop for the business.

Monmouth Assistant fire Chief Ed Pollard said employees were welding outside the building when something caught on fire and one employee was burned. 

Pollard said another employee put the injured man in a vehicle and drove him to a hospital. Pollard did not know the injured man’s name, the extent of his injuries or which hospital he was taken to.

“We have an officer who lives just across the field here,” Pollard said. “On arrival, (fire) was up in the eaves of the building.”

He added, “A chicken house is a wood frame with a bunch of metal on the outside, so once a fire penetrates in there, you got a lot of material, a lot of fuel. They’ve got a lot of wiring and equipment and stuff in there — vehicles — the office is in there.”

Pollard said they had something else in there: cylinders of acetylene used for welding torches.

“When I first got here, I walked to the other end of the building,” he said. “By the time I walked to the other end of the building, I just watched the fire run right along the top.”

He said he decided right away on a strategy. “We got pumping on one end and we got set up on the other end and we just established a collapse zone in front.”

There were several explosions, he said. “You could see flying debris go by. Right from the beginning there was never any instance — I told the guys, ‘Nobody’s going in it; you’re not going near it.”

Pollard said wind pushed the fire into the field. He pointed to a large burnt swath across the street with homes just beyond.

“We put more resources down there in that field,” he said. “You use the manpower that you have, so we put them into the field. There’s nothing you’re going to do about the building — that’s an old chicken house. You’re not going to stop it at that point in time.”

No one other than the welder was injured, Pollard said. The bulk of the fire was under control within an hour and crews worked with heavy equipment to move debris and put out hot spots into the evening.

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