Quick response from the Montague Fire Department saved Dean MacKenzie’s outbuilding in Lower Montague, but he’s changed his opinion about freeloading raccoons, since they’ve been blamed for causing the fire.
When Mr MacKenzie went into the steel building on his property at 361 French Creek Road, around dinner time on Sunday, May 26, he noticed his air compressor was unplugged. What he didn’t notice were frayed wires the furry squatters apparently chewed through the night before.
“It’s the only thing that could have happened,” Mr MacKenzie said, a conclusion shared by investigators from the Fire Marshall’s office.
“They came up with the same thing as I suspected,” Mr MacKenzie said. “The raccoons most certainly did leave lots of evidence (feces) behind. It was fresh too.
“The compressor was unplugged. I never unplug it. I plugged it back in and went outside and about five minutes later I went back in and it was on fire. They must have chewed the wires through the night before and when it was plugged back in the result was the fire.”
Mr MacKenzie said he was so worked up by discovering his building on fire he hardly noticed what time of day it was, but someone had already called the Montague Fire Department.
He kept the building door shut tight to starve the fire for air while he waited briefly for the fire department to arrive.
Montague Fire Chief Tom MacLeod said the fire was in the top part of the building, above a mezzanine.
“We got in there and put it out pretty quick.”
Three pumper trucks, a water tanker and about 20 firefighters brought the fire under control in under an hour, Chief MacLeod said.
“It was very smoky inside the building, very hard to see.”
The fire chief agrees it appears the fire was caused by animals chewing through electrical wires, which fortunately is not something he’s seen often, he said.
There was no sign of the raccoons themselves right after the fire.
“I wish I could get hold of them,” Mr MacKenzie said. “I used to think they are cute little animals. My mind has changed.
“They live between the ceiling and walls in the workshop and I can’t get rid of them.”
Mr MacKenzie will need a new flue for his stove as well as insulation and plywood for the inside walls. He’ll also have to rewire the building. All the equipment and tools inside, including a boat, weren’t damaged.
Mr MacKenzie isn’t sure if the raccoons have relocated.
The building wasn’t insured.