Sen. Angus King tours downtown Lewiston fire damage

Mike Bradley photo

Sen. Angus King speaks with the media Friday at the site of the April 29 fire on Pine Street.

LEWISTON — U.S. Sen. Angus King on Friday walked past piles of rubble on Horton Street, charred buildings on Pierce and Bartlett, and watched a home come down at 80 Pine St.

More coverage of the Lewiston fires:

Volunteers needed

The Androscoggin United Emergency Management Agency is looking for volunteers to help move furniture into fire victims' new apartments next week.

Volunteers are needed May 20 to 24 to sign up for shifts between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

EMA Director Joanne Potvin said people will work in teams of two, three and four. Each team will include a caseworker and a driver.

People will move and deliver mattresses, sofa sets, lamps and dinnerware. They won't lift appliances. Volunteers should wear closed-toe shoes and be comfortable lifting 50 pounds.

To volunteer, contact Androscoggin United at 784-0147.

Mike Bradley photo

Sen. Angus King and Lewiston fire Chief Paul LeClair speak Friday at the site of a May 3 fire on Pierce Street.

As a backhoe clawed down walls and kicked up ashes, it offered glimpses of the former tenants' lives: A mattress. A kitchen sink. A child's red snowsuit.

"I learned a long time ago you really can't understand something until you see it yourself," King said. "You can read about it, hear about it, see pictures about it — but seeing them, particularly seeing that building coming down, you can sort of think about the people who lived in that building. Their whole lives are being pulled down by that big steam shovel. It's tough stuff."

King walked the sites of three recent downtown fires with city officials and said he'd be looking for ways to help, particularly with demolition.

By next week, all nine fire-damaged buildings will have been razed. The city has identified 50 to 60 more that need to go, at a cost of $2 million to $3 million, Assistant City Administrator Phil Nadeau said.

"The question is whether there will be opportunities to try to find some funding to help out with the demolition of those, so we don't have future instances of this kind," King said. "They don't let me loose with the federal checkbook. If there's something we can do to help, we certainly will."

The fires on April 29, May 3 and May 6 displaced about 200 people. When the Red Cross closed a shelter Tuesday, the city stepped in and put 39 people from seven families up in hotel rooms, Nadeau said. He expected everyone that's come forward for help to be in new housing by early next week.

"We're beyond crisis, but now you have the outfall of the crisis," Nadeau said.

People are settling in to their new places and volunteers are helping to outfit apartments with beds, couches and basics such as flatware.

From a city perspective, "our biggest need right now is on the demolition side," Nadeau said. "Long term, there's a lot of planning, a lot of rethinking about what it is we want to do with the downtown and that's going to take time."

King spent an hour downtown, asking questions about the ages of properties and the conditions they'd been in before they burned.

"You can still smell the smoke from this building," he said standing outside 80 Pine St. "I think the physical damage is terrible, the dislocation of the people is terrible but the shock to the community is the real hard part.

"My sense is this town will be just fine," he said. "They'll bounce back. They're strong people and used to dealing with difficult situations."

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Mike Bradley photo

Sen. Angus King and Lewiston Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau tour the site of the May 6 fire on Bartlett Street.

Mike Bradley photo

Sen. Angus King speaks with members of the media Friday at the site of the April 29 fire on Pine Street.

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Comments

King handling local issues?

What a nice thing for U.S. Senator Angus King to visit the devasting charred buildings of Lewiston that left hundreds of people homeless. It's so nice of him to care but was in only to satisfy his own curiousity,"I learned a long time ago you really can't understand something until you see it yourself," and as he said, "King said. " He came with NO solutions what-so-ever. Yet, he has at his fingertips, the resources that he should have brought to the leaders of Lewistion. He could have been steps ahead of his subordinate leaders with answers and with help instead of merely making a visit to see it for himself as if it's a tour and something to write back to Washington about. He continues, "The question is whether there will be opportunities to try to find some funding to help out...They don't let me loose with the federal checkbook. If there's something we can do to help, we certainly will." Senator King should have known BEFORE the visit that there could be something he could do. Instead he gives the people of Lewiston falsehope and then justifieds his nonsolution or nonassistance and wasteful visit by stating something the people of Lewiston is probably sick of hearing,"My sense is this town will be just fine," he said. "They'll bounce back. They're strong people and used to dealing with difficult situations."

It's not as if Lewiston wasn't already devastated with debt given their struggling populations and lack of jobs to match their population growth but on top of their debt, but now needing to come up with 2-3 million dollars to raze the 9 burned buildings but 50-60 more that have been identified as problem buildings. King should do his homework next time and come with some solutions to the problems. Didn't we elect him to be able to think on his feet or is he not in touch with what resources or funding there is. On what merit was he elected? Just because he's Indendent? I hope we see how that didn't really matter! We need to elect people who know what the resources are and what can be done to stop enabling burdensome debt that makes a town be ill-prepared for crisis such as what Lewiston has and is experiencing ongoing.

please excuse my inability to

please excuse my inability to edit the typos. One such typo is here, "Just because he's Indendent" . That is pertaining to U.S. Senator Angus King and should read, "Just because he's Independent"?

Norman Mitchell's picture

Great

King is such a caring man that ignores the devastation of the industrial wind projects that he made millions from !

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