Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 4, 2018
Fire destroys The Lookout’s Winter House
Balloon frame construction like “having chimneys in the walls”
Heavy smoke made it difficult to see the flames inside, Brooklin Fire Department Assistant Chief Tom Morris said.
by Anne Berleant
The Henry Flye Winter House was engulfed in flames and smoke just before noon January 2 after it caught fire from a heater being used to thaw frozen pipes. While volunteer firefighters from the Brookin, Deer Isle, Sedgwick and Blue Hill fire departments worked to contain the fire, the balloon frame construction of the house was like “having chimneys in the walls,” Brooklin Fire Department Assistant Chief Tom Morris said. “The fire just spread too fast through the walls.”
In balloon frame construction, used in the U.S. in the 19th century, studs extend uninterrupted through the floors of a house.
No one was inside the building and there were no injuries, despite the blaze burning out of control about four hours in.
“The structure had gone more than we thought,” Morris said. “At that time, the attic became fully involved.”
Flames began shooting from the roof and firefighters had to essentially let it burn out while moving the pump truck in use out of the way, said Morris, who, was first on the scene and with Fire Chief Sam Friend out of town, headed the command.
“We pulled everyone out when we saw it was out of control,” he continued.
After the flames had subsided, an excavator was used to pull the walls apart in order to get at the fire, Morris said. The fire was basically out, although still smoking, by about 5:45 p.m.
“We think it’s good for the night,” he said.
The two-story, three-bedroom house is part of The Lookout Inn property located at the end of Flye Point Road and often serves as the off-season restaurant for The Lookout. In the summer, it rents for $220 a night, according to The Lookout’s website. The house is fully insured, owner Butch Smith said.
“I had just closed the house for the winter,” he said, as he watched firefighters work to quell flames shooting out of the side while heavy smoke poured through the front first- and second-story windows.
The heavy smoke contributed to the problems fighting the fire because it was difficult to see where the flames were coming from, Morris said. Frozen fittings from days of near-zero temperatures also caused initial problems although the day eventually warmed to a relatively balmy 9° or so.
Morris received the tone from the Regional Communication Center in Ellsworth at 11:36 a.m., he said, and responded as quickly as possible. Tanker trunks shuttled from the Atlantic Boat Company, located about a mile down Flye Point Road, where a 10,000 gallon water tank is stored.
“That was used up pretty quick,” Morris said, causing a delay as firefighters worked to first open one hydrant before turning to a second one at the Brooklin General Store.
Jesse Schaefer, who rents one of the cottages on the property, said he saw smoke coming from beneath the house and immediately ran over. When he looked under the porch he saw flames, he said. Smith had just called 911. The response from the Brooklin Fire Department came “within minutes,” Schaefer said.
Orland, Surry, Penobscot and Castine fire departments were on standby throughout the fire, and Peninsula Ambulance Corps was on the scene to assist.
“We wished we could have stopped it,” Morris said. “Everyone did a good job.”