Vacant building burns on Gamage Avenue in Auburn

AUBURN — A 2½-story apartment house went up in flames on Gamage Avenue Wednesday, and fire investigators say the blaze is suspicious.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Firefighters battle a two-alarm fire on the corner of Gamage Avenue and Dennison Street in Auburn on Wednesday.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Firefighters battle a two-alarm fire on the corner of Gamage Avenue and Dennison Street in Auburn on Wednesday. To watch a video from the scene, visit:

Witnesses reported seeing flames shooting from the second floor of the building at about 3:30 p.m. Crews quickly knocked down the fire and kept flames from leaping to nearby homes.

Firefighters then searched each floor of the abandoned house, making sure no one was inside the gutted building. No one was found. Police said the building has been vacant for at least a year. It is currently owned by a local bank.

The burned building, at 9 Gamage Ave., is between the ends of Hampshire and Dennison streets and across from Western Promenade. 

Firefighters who first arrived at the scene sounded a second alarm, bringing assistance from departments in nearby cities and towns.

As they battled the flames, crowds gathered on front lawns and snow-covered sidewalks. In the distance behind the burning building, kids slid down the hills at Pettengill Park.

Firefighters fought the blaze from the ground and from ladders, cutting through the roof to release smoke. The Public Works Department was notified that the streets around the building were likely to become icy because of the amount of water dumped on the fire.

An Auburn police detective interviewed witnesses as the investigation got under way.

Later Wednesday, fire officials deemed the blaze suspicious and said the investigation was ongoing. The fire was said to be of "human origin" though the exact cause was not released.

In late December, a fire at the former Morin Fine Furniture was found to have been caused by a group of homeless people trying to keep warm inside the vacant warehouse.

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

Just had another thought...

During the thirty minutes it took me to get from the CVS store at the end of Goff St to my house up past the burning building on Gamage Ave the other day, I got to wondering about the cost to the city. While at the lights at Court and Union St. bypass, the Lewiston Fire Dept. crossed in front of me on the way to the fire. Seeing all the fire trucks and police vehicles, an ambulance, public works, CMP, and who knows who else involved, I got to wondering.
Exactly what is the cost of one large fire like that to the city? It would seem to me that putting the effort into properly securing and policing these abandoned buildings, would be much more cost effective. Evidently being banked owned means, they care to at least try and board the thing up. Even that wasn't enough to keep everyone out. I can't help but wonder if a patrol unit in Auburn /Lewiston could be assigned to check, in person, several times a day, all abandoned and bank owned buildings in the twin city area. That would have to be cheaper than just one of these fires. Rattle a few door knobs and bang on some boarded up windows, and maybe keep the homeless away.
This is a safety issue on many fronts, the responding firefighters, the neighboring buildings, and the homeless people who break into these dwellings and use fire to stay warm. I feel that putting a relatively small amount of money into trying to prevent these fires, would be better policy than spending a huge fortune to extinguish them.......

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I hope Fire and police...

I just hope the fire and police departments start checking the other vacant buildings in the very close proximity to the burned out one. It's scary, the building that burned was the only one where any attempt was made to board it up. The other one I 'm worried about doesn't even have decent locks on it. I'm afraid the only defense to squatters is watching for foot prints in the snow. If I see anyone even look funny at either of the buildings I'm concerned about, I'm calling 911. Are there any laws requiring abandoned buildings to be securely boarded up. When does the city get involved and maybe prevent some of these situations? I guess I'm still going sleep with one eye open......

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Codes enforcement officer?

We had an abandoned house next to ours burn and if my cat hadn't woken me up with the smell of smoke, our would have caught fire. When I looked out the window I saw the flames I woke my hubby to call 911, ran outside in my slippers and nightgown and grabbed the garden hose and directed it onto the side of my house. It was steaming! I had been after the city to board the place up for months. They finally did but not good enough to stop the druggies from going in and starting the fire. Good thing it was in the summer.

Call the codes office before something bad happens. And keep calling. Tell them you have a lawyer. Good luck, Frank.

Jason Theriault's picture

I agree

I got two houses to either side of me that are "bank owned". One of them had a water leak, and I'm pretty sure it's toast. It's oh so nice to live in a ghost town.

 's picture

Very rare

Thanks SJ for a timely notice about very local news. This does not happen very often.


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