Two travelers made an unexpected stop at a gas station in Belfast Friday afternoon when their RV started smoking. Over the next quarter hour, they watched the camper go up in flames and get reduced to a dripping, blackened shell by firefighters, who they thought should have come sooner.

According to Belfast Police, Franklin Hart of Searsport was driving west on Belmont Avenue when he smelled something burning and pulled into a service station with a Circle K convenience store and Wendy's. Hart was traveling with one passenger, Steven Bonin, also of Searsport. Hart parked the RV next to a bank of gas pumps. Police reported that Hart "opened up the hood and the vehicle went up in flames."

When Belfast firefighters arrived, smoke was pouring from the engine compartment, and flames had spread to the cabin of the camper. Workers at Circle K were able to activate an emergency shutoff to stop the flow of gasoline to the pumps. Firefighters extinguished the camper with water.

Fire Chief Jim Richards said the heat from the flames melted a security camera on top of the gas station canopy. He added that damage to the gas station could have been far worse if the RV had been parked any closer.

A worker from Circle K thought the driver could have picked a better place to stop than 15 feet from the gas pumps.

"He came in smoking," the worker said.

Two men at the scene who identified themselves as the owners of the RV said there wouldn't have been such a fire if emergency personnel had responded sooner.

"The fire department couldn't get down the street," one of the men said, pointing toward the fire station, a quarter mile east of where the camper burned.

"The sheriff got here," he said. "He stood there and watched it burn for 10 minutes."

"It could have been salvaged," the man said.

Richards guessed that it took his firefighters about seven minutes to get to the scene and said there was nothing that he regarded as a delay.