Thursday, June 23, 2005

Huber to the Rescue!

19th Century Linekin Bay Cottage Saved From Morning Fire

Daniel Fayen

"The Cliffs," a 112-year-old wooden cottage on the east shore of Linekin Bay, was damaged in a mid-morning fire on Wednesday, June 15.
The fact that the expansive Boothbay summer cottage still stands is a tribute to two observant samaritans and the swift response and performance of area firefighters.

Lare Huber and Adam Rumsell, working 100 yards south of the fire at a neighboring cottage, became aware of the cottage's peril detecting what they believed was a brush fire.

The men ventured closer to the cottage to discern the origin of the smoke, and witnessed flames bursting from a first floor window on the cottage's south side, curling skyward around the shingled porch roof. Rumsell notified the Boothbay Region Communications Center of the fire using his cell-phone around 11 a.m.

The two men scrambled filling five gallon plastic pails of water which they breathlessly sprinted to The Cliffs.

Upon reaching the house the two hollered within to determine if the cottage was occupied.

It wasn't.

Realizing their efforts to transport water over the distance of a football field was inadequate to make headway versus the fire, the two frantically searched for an exterior water spigot to attach a hose. Thwarted in their spigot search the two men found a shower on the bottom level of the cottage and broke the shower head off to fill their buckets.

Huber and Rumsell furiously shuttled water buckets to the source of the flames until the fire crews began arriving at the fire scene minutes later.

"If it wasn't for those two men noticing the fire and responding to the fire, the cottage would most likely would have been fully engulfed and lost by the time fire crews arrived," said Boothbay Fire Department Chief Dick Spofford.

The emergency phone call elicited response to the fire by four area fire departments within minutes.

"Structure fires on the peninsula are automatically paged and responded to by the mutual aid compact of Boothbay region fire departments," said Glenn Townsend, "including personnel and equipment from Boothbay (primary responder), Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb and Southport."

Personnel and equipment of the Wiscasset Fire Department attended the Boothbay Harbor station, enabling more local personnel and equipment to attack The Cliffs fire.

"This was one the best responses we've ever had for a daytime call," said Townsend. "We had 10 certified firefighters from this department alone.

"Containment of the fire was aided by the early supply of manpower and water. There was a hydrant in close proximity to the blaze. The hoses were already laid out to the house by the time I got there," said Townsend.

"The group made a heck of a stop on this fire," said Spofford. "Fire can spread quickly in these old open wooden cottages.

"We were able to get a good water supply on it to knock it down when we discovered where it was.

"The fire started in the wall on the south side of the cottage in the dining room area and moved quickly upwards. The cause of the fire is unknown and is pending the state fire marshal's inspection."

As the cottage fire became progressively contained, area fire departments were released from the scene to return to their respective stations. "The Boothbay Fire Department crew was the last to leave at about five that evening," said Spofford.

"I think the fire department did an excellent job," said Melanie Steane, owner of the fire-damaged cottage. "The emergency crews response to the fire was absolutely terrific. They did everything they could to save it.

"My grandfather, Edward J. Norris, had the cottage built in the late nineteenth century.

"It has tremendous sentimental value with our family. Five generations of our family have summered at the seven-bedroom Cliffs since its construction in 1893.

"There was an extensive library within the cottage, begun by my grandfather who was a publisher, as well as some invaluable oil paintings and antiques that were damaged in the fire.

"This is a tough blow coming in the wake of losing my husband last summer and my home in Florida to the hurricane this past year."

"I would like to thank everyone involved with this fire suppression," said Spofford, a 25-year veteran firefighter, "including the Miss Fires, ambulance services and firefighters. I am very fortunate to have such a great crew."

"I would like to thank all the businesses," added Townsend, "that allow the release of the volunteer firefighters to respond to emergencies like this one."