January 25, 2013

Fatal Somerville fire rekindles twice on Friday

Frozen equipment again hampers efforts to douse Crummett Mountain Road home of Cecil Brann, 92, assumed to be dead in Thursday afternoon blaze

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SOMERVILLE -- A fire that killed a homeowner here Thursday rekindled twice the following morning, leaving firefighters to battle it with equipment that once again froze in the cold.

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Firefighters confer next to the burning barn of a farmhouse that burned Thursday on the Crummett Mountain Road in Somerville.

Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

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Michael Dostie, Somerville's fire chief, said the department was called back to the scene at 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday to the remains of the home at Crummett Mountain Road, where a body thought to be that of Cecil Brann, 92, had been found late Thursday night in the kitchen area.

The original fire was reported about 3:30 p.m. Thursday by a neighbor who saw smoke and drove to the house to find it ablaze, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

McCausland said investigators think the body was that of Brann, who lived alone in the house. The body was being sent to the state Medical Examiner's Office in Augusta for an examination. The body was recovered about 9 p.m. Thursday with the aid of an excavator, which moved debris.

It was the first fire death in Maine this year, McCausland said.

McCausland said the fire's cause is unlikely to be determined, because of the extent of the damage. Dostie said Brann had both a wood stove and a furnace in his home.

"We're quite sure that it was him," Dostie said.

Brann was a familiar figure in the town and certainly within the Fire Department.

"He did a lot for this town," Dostie said. "He was of the founding members of the Fire Department, and he still supported us in all our suppers and made a donation every year."

Brann was generous to his community as well.

In 2009, Brann donated 250 acres on Turner Ridge Road to the nonprofit Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. It was named the Cecil and Virginia Brann Forest. Brann's wife, Virginia Brann, died in 2000.

Efforts to quash all the fires at the Crummett Mountain site have been hampered by the icy temperatures, which froze water and equipment. Firefighters from many more outlying towns responded to repeated calls for assistance late Thursday as equipment repeatedly froze and had to be thawed out before it could be used again.

Investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office were on the scene Thursday and Friday.

On Friday, Dostie said firefighters from Whitefield and Jefferson turned up to assist in trying to douse the flames. Dostie said firefighters could do little at 5 a.m., but when they returned around 8 they were able to use the excavator and request one truck at a time from different towns to assist.

He said the house was full of various items the Branns had collected, some of which fed the flames, but that the weather was the chief obstacle.

Occasionally firefighters thawed themselves out in some of the vehicles on the scene.

"Everybody kept freezing, line after line after line," Dostie said. "It was really a difficult fire. We were trying to take people inside as often as we could, but we just had to keep going. Whenever we got people we thought were too cold, we sent them inside."

Neighbors were helpful too, bringing soup and sandwiches to firefighters, Dostie said.

"I want to thank everybody who came from all the outlying towns," Dostie said, listing departments from Chelsea, China, Weeks Mills, Palermo, Waldoboro and Pittston, as well as the mutual aid towns of Jefferson, Whitefield, Washington and Windsor.

"Those fresh crews came in and helped a lot," Dostie said.

Dostie said the severe weather left some trucks damaged, and that his department was down to two trucks. Repair crews have been summoned, he said.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

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