September 20, 2020

Emergency Services> Power lines, limbs are focus of calls

Criminal and fire investigations, normal fare for police and firefighters, generally took a back seat to the more pressing calls of downed trees, limbs and power lines this week.

Area police handled some nonweather-related investigations such as thefts and assaults, but to a lesser degree than usual. Instead, they were barraged by phone calls about downed power lines and branches and trees that fell onto roadways.

And late Friday, Bangor police announced that cars parked on streets would be towed at owners’ expense.

Bangor Assistant Fire Chief Darrell Webb said about 5 p.m. Friday that in the previous 30 hours, the department fielded 204 fire calls, many of them about downed power lines. There were also 60 ambulance calls.

Fire, smoke and heat destroyed much, if not all, of a mobile home at the Rainbow Trailer Park around 10 a.m., although the occupants, a man and a cat, escaped unharmed, Webb said. The power had gone out the night before and Ian Weatherbee, grandson of the home’s owner, was using a gas camping stove to start a fire inside a wood stove on the home’s enclosed porch.

Webb said the fuel is highly volatile and flammable, and when Weatherbee lit the kindling in the stove, the flames were carried by fumes to the gas container about six feet away. Webb estimated the home had $35,000 to $40,000 in damage, although only the porch was burned by fire.

Residents on Essex Street in Bangor were a lot luckier. Smoke coming from a fireplace alerted a resident at 1322 Essex St. to call the Fire Department.

Webb said the fireplace was built up against an exterior wall, without allowing the required 2-inch clearance. Webb said that over time, a crack had developed in the fireplace mortar. The plywood in the wall also had become more susceptible to fire over time.

The resident apparently had planned to leave when she saw the smoke and called the Fire Department. Left alone, a fire could have developed and burned rapidly, Webb speculated.

But downed power lines remained the dominant concern as police and firefighters barricaded many roads and kept an eye on wires that had crossed some streets and landed on homes and cars.

Shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday, Bangor Lt. Gary MacCrae and a crew were at Lincoln and Seventh streets where they were told by a utility worker that power was out in the area — only to find that not to be the case. MacCrae said a downed line sent electricity sparking in a 20-foot-diameter circle near the intersection.

As it made its way along the snow and into about 10 feet of the road, the arcing electricity reminded MacCrae of blue chasing lights you might see at Christmas time, except these lights had a deadly kick to them.

“It was kind of sharp looking,” MacCrae said Friday, adding later that “It just kept dancing until it blew out.”

In Hampden, three families were removed from their trailers at the Crestwood Trailer Park on Thursday morning after ice-laden trees and limbs snapped and fell, causing extensive damage.

Hampden Fire Chief Joe Rogers said one of the trailers was punctured by a falling limb, frightening the family inside. Hampden fire and police officials responded to a call shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday and found the damage so significant that they moved the families to the homes of friends or relatives where they will stay until the trailers are fit for habitation, Rogers said.

The trailer park is owned by David Simeoni of Hampden. Efforts to contact him Thursday were unsuccessful.

Firefighters found themselves not only blocking off downed lines but also having to warn people about the dangers of electricity after witnessing some people trying to remove tree limbs from power lines near their homes.

“If we get through this terrible storm without someone being seriously injured by electricity, it will be just remarkable that we did,” Webb said.

A red pickup truck from the Bangor Fire Department made its way down the side streets between Ohio and Union streets, with two firefighters making a list of downed trees and power lines.

Brewer also had its share of downed wires. On Parkway North early Thursday evening, a downed line landed on a community bus, trapping two people inside, the bus driver and a passenger, reported Brewer Officer Chris Martin.

A crew from Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. showed up about seven minutes later, Martin said, and was able to remove the wire.

“They were awesome,” Martin said of the quick response of the Bangor Hydro crew.

Later that evening, Martin and a utility crew watched over a downed line on Washington Street. Flares about 150 feet apart showed where the high-powered line had been knocked to the ground by a falling tree limb.

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