LITCHFIELD — A fire that broke out Thursday at the Maine Turnpike Authority camp off Academy Road destroyed a wooden eight-bay garage and the vehicles stored inside it, causing millions of dollars in damages.
Fire crews from around the region were at the garage for more than four hours, working to keep the fire contained in the building and ferrying in water from area sources to knock down the blaze.
As investigators from the Office of State Fire Marshal continued their work Friday to identify the cause of the fire, the Maine Turnpike Authority estimates the loss at between $3 million and $4 million.
“That’s our first estimate; nothing’s complete,” said Erin Courtney, public outreach manager for the Maine Turnpike Authority, of the damages.
The estimate accounts for the loss of the building as well as the five plow trucks, traffic control vehicle, skid steer and other equipment stored in the structure.
Litchfield Fire Chief Michael Sherman said Friday that his department was dispatched to the Maine Turnpike Authority property for a report of flames and smoke showing from one of the garages.
“It was pretty well into the building by the time I arrived,” Sherman said at the site of the fire. “By the time the first units arrived, it was a defensive operation preventing spread to any other structures.”
He said the attack was focused on preventing the fire from reaching fuel storage areas and the generator shack that stood next to the wooden garage.
Sherman said his department reached out to just about every fire department in the region for tanker support and to all of Litchfield’s mutual aid communities and others to provide engine support.
“We had people as far as Dresden, Chelsea and Manchester,” he said. “When you’ve gotta have that much water, you get all that you can.”
He said he was working Friday to compile the complete list of departments.
On Friday, Shannon Moss, public information officer for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said dispatchers at the Augusta Regional Communications Center dispatched Litchfield and started mutual aid response, dispatched the Gardiner Fire Department and contacted Sagadahoc and Androscoggin county communication centers for the Richmond and Wales fire departments.
Departments from Monmouth, Sabattus, West Gardiner, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Manchester, Greene, Chelsea, Randolph, Pittston, Topsham and Dresden were also called for mutual aid.
Investigators from the fire marshal’s office and Central Maine Power Co. were dispatched to the site as were the Maine State Police for traffic control.
At least five people called 911 to report the fire.
Mike Robinson, who lives across the turnpike from the complex, said Thursday he saw the flames from the hot tub on the far side of his house and walked over to see what was happening.
“When I was taking pictures, there were multiple explosions coming out of the left side of the building,” he said. “I was standing directly across the street from the station, and I could hear them. And then when I walked back here, I could hear them, and I could smell the burning rubber as well.”
Courtney said Thursday that the Turnpike Authority has enough spare plow trucks to replace those that were burned, and plow routes are not expected to have to be changed this winter.
She said the initial plan calls for the plows to be stored in an existing brick building at the complex.
Because water for the site came up through the burned building, it will need to be rerouted. In the meantime, portable toilets will be provided, she said.
Kennebec Journal photographer Joe Phelan contributed to this report.