Investigators found no cause of a house fire Thursday night in Sabattus that left people homeless. The house was considered a total loss. (Sabattus Fire Department photo)

SABATTUS — Investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal were poking through the rubble Friday in an attempt to determine the cause of a Thursday night house fire that left one firefighter injured and a family of eight homeless.

Ice fills a Sabattus Fire Department hose that froze during a house fire in Sabattus on Thursday night. (Marc A. Veilleux photo)

The family at 40 Sabattus Road fled their burning home at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday with the help of neighbors and passers-by. Firefighters contended with temperatures so cold that they had to use extrication equipment to cut hoses from their trucks.

Two ferrets, three birds and several dogs were among the pets rescued by firefighters later in the night – although at least one dog remained unaccounted for Friday.

Three adults, including a woman in a wheelchair, and five children escaped the fire without injury. The house, owned by Bruce York, was considered a total loss. The fire appeared to start near a second-floor kitchen, fire officials said, although the cause of the fire had not been determined Friday.

Sabattus Fire Chief Marc A. Veilleux said he arrived at the scene to find flames on the second-floor rear of the home.

“Although the initial attack crew made entry and had a great attempt, the fire was already in the attic and void spaces,” Veilleux wrote on Friday. “Conditions deteriorated quickly and Chief Veilleux ordered the evacuation of all interior units.”

Roughly an hour later, crews made entry on the first floor, using support from crews from half a dozen towns. The flames were stubborn, however, and firefighters faced a host of problems.

“Crews worked diligently and chased fire all through the second floor until 2:30 a.m.,” Veilleux said. “We were faced with trucks, hoses, hydrants, and air packs freezing up and not working. We had one firefighter who was sent to the hospital due to a fall on the ice.”

Fire crews from Wales, Greene, Lewiston, Lisbon, Monmouth and Litchfield assisted. A long stretch of Sabattus Road, which is Route 126, remained closed for hours into Friday morning.

While firefighters battled the blaze, several people from the community rallied around the victims and the fire crews. Among them were two local restaurants, including Uncle Moe’s Diner, which opened up the restaurant as a warming space and served coffee and hot chocolate to the firefighters.

Debbie Brewer, a waitress at Uncle Moe’s for nearly 40 years, was closing up the diner when she spotted the flames. She contacted owner Ann Dion and asked if they could reopen the restaurant to provide a warm space for firefighters and victims. Dion agreed and rushed to the diner to help serve coffee.

The Sabattus House of Pizza sent pizza to the firefighters while several neighbors made frequent runs to Cumberland Farms for food and water for the victims.

“You are awesome,” Veilleux wrote in a Facebook post. “You all made our night that much more tolerable.”


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