Fire damage hindering investigation at River Street blaze

Daryn Slover, Sun Journal

John Gravel of Turner cleans up Thursday outside the 12-unit, four-story apartment building that burned Tuesday at 32-34 River Street in Lewiston. Gravel's family owns the building. 

LEWISTON — Damage to a River Street apartment building in a fire Tuesday is making it difficult for inspectors to determine a cause, they said Thursday.

Daryn Slover, Sun Journal

Ron Saucier, left, and Moe Bazinet clean up in front of a 1½-story house damaged by fire Tuesday, right, at 46 River St. in Lewiston on Thursday. "The upstairs is totally gone and the downstairs is filled with water," said Saucier, who has lived in the house for 26 years. The single-family home is one of three buildings that burned in Tuesday's fire. Bazinet, of Lewiston, came to see if there was anything he could do for Saucier.  

Lewiston Fire Investigator Paul Ouellette said he and state fire marshals have confirmed the fire that destroyed at least two buildings in Little Canada and damaged two others began on a third-story porch at 32-34 River St.

"The third-floor and fourth-floor rear porches are so compromised with damage from the fire we can't go on the porch, for safety reasons," Ouellette said. "So we are kind of peeking our heads through windows, reaching out with pipes, poles, shovels to try and dig through the debris. But we have other avenues we can take, and that's what we're starting now."

The fire involved a 12-unit, four-story apartment building at 32-34 River St., a 1½-story, single-family structure next door at 42 River St. and a building at 46 River St.

Ouellette said the fire appeared to have started on one of the rear porches on the third story, spreading up the fourth-story porches and into the attic.

Fire damage was mostly contained to the fourth floor, and the damage was extensive.

"So, the third-floor apartments you can walk in and see that there is a lot of water and smoke damage, but nothing really burned on the inside," he said. "But the fourth floor up through the roof had a lot more damage."

The 32-34 River St. building was being reviewed by city building inspectors, but it appeared to be a total loss, Ouellette said. So, too, did the single-family structure at 42 River St.

But damage to neighboring buildings — 46 River St. to the south and 135 Oxford St. to the east — appeared to be limited to the outside. Both buildings had melted siding from the heat of the blaze.

"They can put in a claim to their insurance company and get that taken care of," Ouellette said.

The fire broke out shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday. By 2 p.m., firefighters were focused on the four-story building whose roof had collapsed. They began packing up at 3:30 and the fire was declared to be out just before 5:30 p.m.

No injuries were reported. One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion and released.

City records show the four-story building was built in 1866. The neighboring 1½-story building dates back to 1851, according to city records.

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Barry King's picture

God Bless You All, Folks.

I'm very sorry that you have to deal with such a traumatic experience, and suffer such a great loss of possessions.

There is always something, in every situation, to be grateful for and in this case I am grateful that no one lost their life. A fire of this magnitude could easily have claimed many.

Barry King


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