FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue High School student Jullian Merrill, 17, received a certificate from the Farmington Fire Rescue Department at Mt. Blue Campus on Monday, May 20, for his part in alerting first responders to a house fire in February.

Mt. Blue High School junior Jullian Merrill, second from left, is recognized Monday, May 20, for his 911 call to report a fire at his neighbor’s barn on Feb. 22. From left are school principal Joel Smith, Merrill, homeowners Mary and Doug Dunlap and Farmington Fire Rescue Department Chief Tim “TD” Hardy, who presented Merrill with a certificate of appreciation. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

Merrill said it was around 10:30 at night, and he woke up to get himself something to drink when he heard what sounded like rain. Upon looking out his bedroom window, he was met with a red sky followed by a sudden explosion.

“I was a little frightened and saw the big outburst of flames,” he said. “The first thing that came to mind was I need to call somebody. I need to call 911 about this.”

What he saw was the barn belonging to his neighbors Doug and Mary Dunlap going up in flames. The couple, a retired professor from University at Maine at Farmington and a retired family nurse practitioner, respectively, woke to the sound of their fire detectors.

Unaware of the chaos that was ensuing outside their home, Mary shared that she and her husband were walking downstairs to investigate the source of the smoke when first responders were already on the scene to evacuate the couple.

“I said to my husband, ‘Oh, we must have some trouble with a wood stove. We gotta get up and go down,” she said. “By the time I got downstairs, the fire department was pounding on my door saying ‘Ma’am, you have to leave now’.”


Detective Rex Schweighofer, at the time a police officer, was the first on the scene, followed by an off-duty Farmington firefighter who happened to be one of the Dunlaps’ neighbors.

Farmington Fire Rescue Department, with the mutual aid of fire departments from Chesterville, Jay, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Strong, Temple and Wilton, managed to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading any further. In total, 55 firefighters were on the scene from the nine different departments.

According to Doug Dunlap, the fire destroyed their barn and damaged the ell that connected the house to the barn, as well as a portion of their kitchen. The house, however, was saved thanks to the efforts of the nine different fire departments. No animals were in the barn at the time and the couple’s cat was not harmed in the fire.

At the Farmington Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, May 15, Police and Fire Rescue personnel were recognized for their efforts in extinguishing the fire and saving the Dunlaps’ home, with the couple writing a letter of gratitude that was shared at the meeting by Town Manager Erica LaCroix. In it, the Dunlaps called firefighters “highly skilled, courageous, and compassionate.”

At the meeting, Farmington Fire Chief Timothy “TD” Hardy shared that the timing of the fire department was critical in their efforts to save the couple and their home, stating that “adding five minutes to the roll out could have meant a very different result.”

Hardy echoed that sentiment when handing the certificate to Merrill on Monday afternoon, sharing that the honor roll student’s quick reaction was critical in the department’s efforts to stop the fire.

The Dunlaps thanked Merrill for his part in saving their home, sharing a letter with him along with his certificate. Doug shared they will rebuild, with Mary adding that she is thankful everyone came out safe and sound.

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