UPDATED: Five departments respond to midday fire in Rockland’s South End

Posted:  Monday, June 12, 2017 - 5:45pm

ROCKLAND – Spontaneous combustion due to improper storage of stain-soaked rags is the believed cause of a garage fire in the South End of Rockland, Monday, June 12. In the official followup report by Chief Chris Whytock, those stained rags generated enough heat from the 85 degree outside air to trigger a chemical reaction, igniting readily available materials in the area.

Local dispatch received numerous reports of the fire at the home of Dustin Pease and Joanna Pinkham at a time when some members of the on-duty fire station staff were away on a medical call, leaving three firefighters and the chief to respond shorthanded. In total, 38 responders from eight agencies either went to the scene, or covered other stations, many leaving their other jobs to do so. 

The first line of defense, according to the report, was placed into operation to protect the effected exposures while more firefighters were responding from neighboring towns.

In Whytock’s report, he wrote: “Upon arrival, [at approximately 1:36 p.m.] Rockland Car 1 reported heavy fire from a two-story garage/barn and requested a second alarm. The house at 8 Pacific was four feet from the burning barn and had flame impingement upon arrival. The neighboring residence had its vinyl siding melting and it too was about to be directly involved with the fire.”

The report listed the following reasons for some of the actions taken:

1. As always, our mutual aid companies provide us with amazing backup/frontline assistance that we couldn’t do this job safely and effectively without them. We thank them for always being there and are lucky to have a talented group of professionals.

2. The heat reaching 85 degrees is something that makes this fire a difficult one to battle. The average firefighter puts on an additional 50 pounds of gear and equipment when fighting a fire. This coupled with the heat and strenuous activity, quickly tires a member out, needing more people to carry out the work load.

3. Any time there are other buildings to keep fire from entering, more work, more water, and more effort is needed to combat the problem. Multiple calls and firefighters out of the station make our initial work much more difficult.

Apparatus Assigned:

Rockland Tower 3                   Rockport Engine 23

Rockland Squad 3                  Rockport Engine 22

Rockland Engine 1                 Camden Ladder 1 for RIT

Rockland Engine 2                Owls Head FD

Rockland Rescue                  South Thomaston FD

St. George FD Warren FD      North East Mobile Health

South Thomaston FD



ROCKLAND – The owner of the property at 8 Pacific Street in Rockland managed to pull his car from the garage with seconds to spare. The tenant next door ran for a prized 50th anniversary special edition motorcycle but the heat of the sudden fire kept him away. A loud whoosh is how he described the noise he’d heard just as two gas tanks flew out of the entryway about 1:15 p.m. Monday, June 12.

Because the tenant’s dog barked, waking the man from his nap and alerting neighbors to the thick, acrid smell; because the postal worker down the street looked up and asked, “hey, what’s that?; because of the westerly direction of the wind; and lastly, because of the response of the fire department during what became a four-alarm fire, the destruction didn’t spread any more than it did.

The fire torched the garage. The walls remained standing long after visible flames smoldered, though, to the naked eye, what was left started to shift. Crews from Camden, Rockport, Warren, Thomaston, South Thomaston, and Owls Head brought their resources and their manpower.

A Thomaston volunteer showed up in this truck, and then three firemen jumped right out and started hitting it hard with the water. Knocked it down,” next-door neighbor Matthew Vokey said.

“It started in the garage,” Vokey said. “We thought there was a car in there, initially. Then these old barbecue gas cans popped right out. We don’t know if there was a barbecue going on on that porch, and it caused the plastic siding, or what. But it was definitely more of a smell than just wood. Lead paint. Acrid. Chemicals.

“It was kind of scary,” he said.

That wind pushed the flames into the back side of the owner’s house, requiring responders to haul hoses up the front staircase for hydro extinguishment.

Vokey happened to be finishing up his remodel of an upstairs apartment during the calm of the early afternoon when his tenant ran and told him to move his car. He’d bought the house in November with plans to reach out to potential Air BnB in two weeks. Now, though the inside of his 140 year-old-house sustained no damage, the complete vinalsiding meltdown of his back wall is hardly good advertising.

Having been a chef for more than 20 years, as well as the former owner of the Thorndike Creamery, Vokey apparently raised his two teenage sons with a foodie mentality. Upon calling them about the fire, the two boys raced to the scene, empty coolers in hand, with nothing more on their minds than saving the food in the refrigerator, Vokey said.

More details will be added to this article as they become available.

Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com