Fire destroys 3 Lewiston buildings

LEWISTON — Three, three-story apartment buildings in the downtown area were destroyed in a fire late Monday afternoon that left 75 people homeless and caused minor injuries to some firefighters, officials said.

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LEWISTON MULTIPLE APARTMENT FIRE
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Firefighters from multiple departments battle a four-alarm fire in downtown Lewiston on Monday. Three apartment buildings were destroyed on Bates, Blake and Pine streets.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Fire erupts out of the roof multiple apartment buildings Monday afternoon in Lewiston.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Firefighters continue to saturate several buildings from the Bates Street side that continue to burn into the night.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Fire erupts out of the roof of a Bates Street apartment building Monday afternoon in Lewiston.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Firefighters work on a ladder at Monday's multiple-apartment building fire in Lewiston.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Lewiston firefighters train their hoses on a Blake Street apartment building Monday afternoon.

LEWISTON MULTIPLE APARTMENT FIRE
Christopher Williams/Sun Journal

Fire consumes an apartment building at 111 Blake Street in Lewiston on Monday. At least four apartment buildings were involved, with many more in peril. 

AP Photo/Christopher Williams, Sun Journal

Flames consume an apartment building at 111 Blake St. in Lewiston on Monday. At least four apartment buildings were involved, with many more in peril. 

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Soot and ash cover a Lewiston Fire Department vehicle at the scene of Monday's multiple apartment building fire.

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS

Fire consumes an apartment building at 111 Blake St. in Lewiston, Maine, on Monday April 29, 2013. At least four apartment buildings were involved, with many more in peril. (AP Photo/Christopher Williams, Sun Journal) *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

A firefighter points flames breaking out at an apartment building in downtown Lewiston on Monday afternoon. Three multi-story buildings on Bates, Blake and Pine streets were destroyed.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Officials cordoned off downtown streets in Lewiston on Monday as firefighters battled flames in three apartment buildings on Bates, Blake and Pine streets.

Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal

Firefighters battle a blaze at 172 Bates St. in Lewiston on Monday afternoon as smoke billows in front of Saints Peter and Paul Basilica on Ash Street. 

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

People mill about, photographing or watching the fire downtown Monday in Lewiston.

The fire started in a three-story building at 105 Blake St. just before 4:30 p.m. and spread to two neighboring three-story buildings at 172 Bates St. and 82 Pine St. Thick smoke filled the city block, engulfing buildings, including Saints Peter and Paul Basilica on Ash Street. Every building in the block was evacuated and hundreds of people lined nearby streets to watch the firefighting activity.

Jessica Ramsey-Nguyen said she was with her 5-day-old baby in their third-floor apartment at 105 Blake St. when she heard a loud bang, smelled smoke and went to the kitchen to see flames and smoke coming in the window.

"I grabbed my baby and left," she said. Her pet dog perished in the blaze, she said.

Within minutes, the fire jumped to the back of 172 Bates St., and onto nearby lawns. According to firefighters, the roof at 82 Pine St. caught fire just after 5 p.m., and smoke rolled out of the third floor minutes later, with the fire quickly spreading through the building.

Angela Gayton was asleep on the third floor of the Pine Street apartment house when her 3-week-old baby started crying and woke her up, she said.

Gayton walked to the back of the apartment to see flames on the eaves. When she turned to flee, she said, the windows "exploded."

Gayton grabbed her baby and fled.

Her mother, other family members and friends arrived quickly to support her and her newborn.

So did Nancy Juskewitch. "I gave them $20 for diapers," she said, and was offering them a place to stay. "They have no jacket, nothing," she said.

Firefighters did limited searches of the apartment houses, and at about 5:30 p.m., Lewiston Fire Investigator Paul Ouellette said a resident in one of the buildings was not accounted for, but that person may be in the crowd behind the barricades that surrounded the scene.

Police Chief Michael Bussiere said nearby buildings were evacuated.

Michael Marquis, who had just moved into a third-floor apartment on Blake Street, said he heard crackling and a "pow" and looked outside to see the fire nearby. His neighbors were able to get out with their pets, he said.

Kevin Barrett, who had been walking to the post office, said he saw a little fire in one of the apartment buildings and saw people rushing toward it and thought it was under control. By the time he came out of the post office, he said, the building was on fire.

"It went up like that," he said.

Roberta Greenlaw who lives on the second floor at Healey Terrace senior housing at 81 Ash St. said she first thought her building was ablaze.

"I thought it was our building at first when I looked out and saw the smoke," she said as she watched the activity while holding her little mixed-breed dog named Dude.

"I grabbed him, grabbed my purse and got out," she said. She also moved her car because it was too close to the burning buildings.

City firefighters were working late into the night to douse flames and hot spots, assisted by area departments, including Auburn, Lisbon, Oxford, Topsham, New Gloucester, Turner and Mechanic Falls.

An investigator from the state Fire Marshal's Office was at the scene Monday night.

Just before midnight, fire Chief Paul Leclair said the firefighting operations were under control.

"We're just wrapping up," he said, adding that other departments were being sent home and a crew will be left overnight to keep watch.

Sections of Blake and Bates streets will remain closed and investigators will be on scene at 8 a.m., he said

According to Leclair, there were a few minor injuries to firefighters, but they were quickly treated.

The apartment building at 105 Blake St. was valued at $191, 340, according to tax records, and is owned by Watkins Property Management. It had been condemned and was scheduled to be auctioned May 22, according to a neighbor.

The building at 172 Bates St. is owned by Caron Property Management and is assessed at $210,000. It had an "auction" sign hanging on the Bates Street side.

It was not immediately known who owned the Pine Street building.

Carol Gill Photo

Carol Gill was taking a flying lesson over downtown Lewiston when she took this photo of fires at four apartment buildings Monday afternoon.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Lewiston firefighter Nate Maillet looks up a the flames pouring out of several buildings in Lewiston Monday afternoon as he takes a quick water break on Pine Street.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A Lewiston ladder attacks a building on Pine Street as fire engulfs another on Bates Street in Lewiston Monday afternoon.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A firefighter is served some hot food from the Salvation Army Emergency Canteen parked on Bates Street in Lewiston Monday night.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A firefighter looks at the smoldering remains of buildings between Blake and Bates Streets in Lewiston Monday night.

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

Fire destroys 3 Lewiston buildings

Holy Toledo 17:45 hst Tuesday
We do hope and pray everyone is okay and accounted for
† y v m first responders . .these old tinder boxes go right up immediately
" . . . owned by Watkins Property Management. It had been condemned . . ." o m g . . Sounds like an insurance job to us . .
They don't know who owns one of the buildings ?
" It was not immediately known who owned the Pine Street building. "
That seems strange . ...
How about that convicted felon Travis Soule of New Gloucester ?
Mark ? Get to work •  Best of luck Stunning photographs Amber and Russ et. al., ? , Steve

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

Thank God no lives lost

The snarky and pseudo sophisticated remarks about meth labs and arson are really inappropriate.

No matter what caused the fire, 75 human beings are alive and relatively safe. I was truly impressed with the offers of help that were posted.

 's picture

Auction signs???

Could it be a suspicious fire? Thank God all the people that resided in these buildings and around them are safe and alive! Those buildings are all so old they go like a quick match once they start. I'll never forget the sounds of the old farmhouse next door when it started afirs due to an electircal failure - windows popping and the fire roaring before the smoke even was detected! I can feel the fear and anxiety for these who are left homeless! Prayers to you...

AL PELLETIER's picture

METH LAB OR NOT.

The immediate needs of the innocent displaced is job 1. When the dust settles and the blame is established lets start throwing stones.
I' ll be helping out, hope you all will be doing too.

KAREN LEE LANE's picture

Let us know how we can help

I work for an Auburn church, First Universalist. We want to know how we in the community can help those who are displaced. It's an important part of the story - please let us know.

Tonya Perry's picture

How to help

Contact the Red Cross. They will be there providing assistance.

http://www.redcross.org/support

KAREN LEE LANE's picture

Thanks!

Good idea! Someone in our church also talked to a person from the Center for Wisdom's Women, to see how we can support their efforts to support their neighbors.

 's picture

Fire

It is probably a meth lab that blew up...

 's picture

Fire

Yup, another meth lab bites the dust. The cops won't do anything about them, but eventually the meth-heads will burn down every dump they infest and self-destruct. It's sad only when innocent people are affected. I could not care less about what happens to the meth-heads.

Pamela Belanger's picture

Goes to show how much U guys

Goes to show how much U guys know...No it wasn't a meth lab just cause the fire happened in Lewiston don't mean it was a meth lab....

 's picture

You're right

Just because it's in Lewiston doesn't mean it was a meth lab, you're right. However the fact it was an abandoned building and multiple people reported the sound of an explosion does raise legitimate questions.

Pamela Belanger's picture

Actually it wasn't an abandon

Actually it wasn't an abandon building I know people who was still living there and reports of the sound of explosion don't make me think meth lab....

Andrew Jones's picture

Condemned building, not

Condemned building, not necessarily abandoned. Probably kids screwing around with fireworks, although I wouldn't rule out a meth lab in downtown Lewiston.

Pamela Belanger's picture

Hey guess what...meth labs

Hey guess what...meth labs aren't only in Lewiston so just cause a fire happens in Lewiston don't mean it's a meth lab....so stop being so judgmental and ignorant for once...NEWS FLASH LEWISTON ISN'T THE ONLY BAD CITY AROUND

MARK GRAVEL's picture

No need to get emotional.

No need to get emotional. Just wait until the official report is issued. You are just feeding this fire, remove the fuel.

 's picture

Fire

I said probably a meth lab...I didn't say it was...I use to live in Lewiston...I just hope no one got hurt...

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

another possible reason

It being one of the first beautiful days after winter could someone have chosen to have a Bar-B on the porch, you know stupid people do stupid things, and some just don't care about others only themselves, so if they know the danger and they are hungry for a Bar-B-Que you know they will do it. In this area strict laws and punishment should be put in place for Bar-B-Ques.

 's picture

Fire

I hope everyone got out okay and no one got hurt...

Randall Pond's picture

SO Sad

I hope everyone got out okay.

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