AUBURN — Firefighters from four departments quickly tamped down flames at Wallingford’s Fruit House on Thursday morning after fire broke out in the hard cider tasting area and spread to a storage barn one day before the tasting area opened for the season.

By Thursday afternoon, Perkins Ridge Road was back open, as was Wallingford’s retail shop.

Spokesman Peter Ricker said a new tasting area would probably be ready in about a week.

“Tomorrow was going to be the first day for the alcohol,” Ricker said. “We’ll be making doughnuts fresh tomorrow morning, nothing will change at the bakery or Wallingford Fruit House. We had a slight setback on some of our storage buildings and some of our stuff has been burnt out, but nobody was hurt, so we’re going to be up and going and moving forward.”

The orchard, which is set on a hill high over Lost Valley Ski Resort, is best known for its apple cider doughnuts.

The fire was reported at 11:20 a.m. after an employee smelled smoke and fire quickly spread to a nearby storage barn.


“When we got there, the shack was fully involved and it had started to extend into the bigger barn,” Battalion Chief Scott Hunter said. “The staff that was on scene told us they’d just turned the power back on to that building, so as a cause, we’re leaning to electrical right now, but the city electrician is there looking at it and trying to determine if that was in fact the cause.”

Firefighters closed Perkins Ridge Road around the orchard during the worst of the fire. Crews from Lewiston, Minot and Poland responded to help Auburn.

With no fire hydrants anywhere near the orchard, firefighters trucked water to the scene.

Just before noon, firefighters had contained the flames, and smoke could be seen pouring from the building. There were no injuries.

According to AccuWeather, the temperature in Auburn was 89 degrees at noon.

“Luckily, we got a quick knock down on it,” Hunter said. “As soon as we got the heaviest of the fire out and it wasn’t a threat to the large barn anymore, we let the guys cool down; I grabbed some Lewiston guys to rotate out for a few minutes.”


He estimated the damage at $50,000. The property was insured. The store was not damaged.

Police are investigating the fire but don’t consider it suspicious, according to Auburn Deputy Chief Jason Moen.

“The greatest challenge today was the heat,” Moen said.

The orchard, which is owned by the Wallingford family, is leased and managed by Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner, which has been growing apples since 1803.

The Ricker family has orchards in Auburn and Turner, and sells McIntosh apples throughout the East Coast under various labels, according to its website. The family farms also grow peaches, pears and — in Turner — cranberries. The company also has a line of hard cider.

In addition to its fruits, the business on Perkins Ridge Road in Auburn offers a haunted hayride in the fall. The retail store and petting zoo opened June 1 for the season.

The Wallingford family started harvesting apples at the current location in 1918. Eugene Wallingford took over the business from his father officially in 1966, seeing it through multiple fires and hailstorms, before his son Peter and Peter’s wife, Denise, assumed control in 1987.

The Ricker family took over management of the orchard in 2009, a year after Peter Wallingford’s death.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: