Another 12-year-old accused of setting a fire in Lewiston

Last updated 4:49 p.m.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal's Office sifts through the debris of a four-bay garage on Pierce Street in Lewiston on Saturday after Friday night's fire. Three buildings, two on Pierce Street and one on Bartlett Street, burned and a fourth on Pierce Street sustained major smoke and water damage.

More coverage of the Bartlett Street fire:

Stories from the Blake Street fire:

Helping the victims:

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

State Fire Marshal Sgt. Tim York, right, smells something collected at the scene of the Pierce Street fire as he, and Senior Investigators Dan Young, center, and Mark Roberts comb the scene for clues Saturday.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Dan Young of the State Fire Marshal's Office works with accelerant-detection dog Shasta behind 116 Pierce St. in Lewiston on Saturday. Shasta sat down in two spots, which were later processed for evidence.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Lewiston firefighters on Saturday douse a smoldering section of what was a four-bay garage behind 116 Pierce St.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Shasta, an accelerant-detection dog, awaits a reward from Dan Young at the scene of Friday night's fire as they looked for evidence Saturday.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

State Fire Marshal Sgt. Tim York, right, and Senior Investigator Mark Roberts on Saturday sift through the fire debris of a garage behind 116 Pierce St. in Lewiston.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Lewiston police Chief Michael Bussiere, flanked by Joel Davis of the State Fire Marshal's office, left, and Lewiston fire Chief Paul LeClair, right, announced Saturday that a 12-year-old boy has been charged with arson in Friday night's fire on Bartlett and Pierce streets.

LEWISTON — A 12-year-old boy has been charged with four counts of felony arson in connection with Friday's fire on Pierce Street.

Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere declined to release the boy's name, citing his age, until he has been formally charged in court.

The charges have been made in connection with a fast-moving fire that destroyed four buildings on Pierce and Bartlett streets late Friday night. One of those buildings was condemned.

The combined cost of damage to the buildings is estimated at $1 million. 

The boy is being detained and authorities are expected to draft a juvenile petition, formally charging him with the crimes. He is being held at the Long Creek Correction facility in South Portland, police said. He could appear in court the first of the week, Bussiere said.

Police said they aren't aware of any connection between the boy charged with Friday's fire and 12-year-old Brody Covey of Lewiston, who was charged last week with three counts of arson in connection with a massive fire that destroyed three apartment buildings at Bates, Blake and Pine streets.

The estimated damage of Monday's fire was also $1 million and two of the buildings have already been torn down.

Bussiere said he didn't believe Friday's fire was a "copycat" crime.

He said other juveniles may be charged in connection with Friday's fire. Police believe others at least witnessed the incident, but are investigating whether others encouraged or even participated. 

Bussiere declined to comment on how the fire was intentionally set and where it was set, but said there were "indications that an accelerant was used." 

The fire is believed to have been started at a four-bay garage behind the apartment at 116 Pierce St., which was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived at the scene at about 10:10 p.m. Friday.

An estimated 100 people have been left homeless by the fire and roughly 50 of them have sought shelter at the Lewiston High School.

Additional police patrols will be checking the area for juveniles on the streets after curfew, Bussiere said. Parents are asked to know where their children are at all times.

"If you don't know where they are and they're starting fires, that's a problem," he said. "We don't want any more fires."

On Saturday, investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office were working at the Pierce Street fire scene to determine the cause and origin of the fire, but were tight-lipped at an afternoon press conference and wouldn't comment on whether the fire started inside or outside of the garage.

Fire Chief Paul LeClair said the damaged buildings will be assessed for their structural integrity by city officials and the buildings' owners.

Police helped evacuate the affected buildings. The city's public works department helped manage water pressure at hydrants.

"So, a lot of people were putting their lives on the line," he said.

Despite the possible dangers, there were few injuries, LeClair said. A civilian fell and two elderly people were treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire spread from the garage to the outside of the back of 149 Bartlett St., an apartment building, which had working sprinklers inside, he said.

The firefighting equipment has held up, but the back-to-back fires have taken a toll on firefighters, law enforcement and investigators, LeClair said.

"It's been very taxing on all the personnel," he said. "We're all very tired." 

Hours before the arrest was announced Saturday afternoon, investigators combed through the rubble from Friday's fire, leading a black Lab on a red leash through the area. The dog sniffed at charred timbers, then sat at a spot where a wisp of smoke curled up from the darkened debris that once was the back of the four-bay garage.

Investigators scooped bits of evidence in clear glass jars from the spots where the Lab had sat and brought the jars to their noses.

Tim Saucier spoke with fire investigators at the scene.

“I just saw two people bookin' it down that way,” said Saucier, who pointed down Pierce Street toward Birch Street.

Saucier had been visiting his girlfriend, Crystina Crowell-Gary, at an apartment building at 43 Bartlett St. when he saw flames out the window at about 10 p.m. Friday night.

“The siding of both buildings was starting to melt and go up in flames,” he said.

He said he started pounding on doors in that building to alert residents. He and Crowell-Gary said they heard no smoke alarms. She woke her 4-year-old son and whisked him out of the building.

Saucier tried to roust people from a building next door.

“When I was in one of the buildings, there was black smoke everywhere and I didn't hear a single thing except for people opening their doors and running out. That was it,” he said.

He showed the left shoulder of his blue and white windbreaker was melted from where he had gotten too close to the flames.

He said he told investigators that he could only see that the two figures running from the scene were roughly his height, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and were either late teens or were adults.

A building next to the burned garage, 116 Pierce St., had been condemned and was apparently empty, a city inspector said Saturday.

A dark pool of water covered most of the area where the garage had been. Charred hulks of buildings showed the remains of melted vinyl siding that dripped down exterior walls.

Sidewalks were littered with blackened debris. Street sweepers and motor-powered brooms swept the area in an effort to make walking the neighborhood easier and safer.

Area residents basked in the sun on sidewalks and stoops, crowding behind yellow police tape that encircled the fire scene.

Police announced the arson charges at a 4:30 p.m. press conference at the Park Street station.

Bartlett and Pierce streets were closed most of the day Saturday; Bartlett Street was reopened in the evening.

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 's picture

Kids & Fires

It is so sad when you have boys setting buildings on fire that leave many people and pets homeless...Also possibility that some pets burnt in these fires...These boys are heartless and should be punished to the extremes of the law...Charge them as adults...They knew better, but they didn't care...

Natalie Bergeron's picture

Russell Park Rehab and Living Hosts Fundraiser/Food Drive

On Tues May 7th 10:30-2:00 Russell Park Rehabilitation and Living Center at 158 Russell Street is holding a fundraiser for the victims displaced by the multiple fires in downtown Lewiston this week.
We will have a loaded hot dog sale, non-perishable food and toiletry drive.
This event is open to the public and we hope to see you there!

"It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it."
~Amelia Barr


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