LEWISTON — Authorities removed several marijuana plants Friday morning from a four-story apartment building at 32 Oxford St., the scene of an early-morning fire that displaced seven people.
A Lewiston Police Department spokesman declined to talk about the removal of the plants and whether they had a connection to the fire, which was reported before 3 a.m. and closed down portions of Oxford and Lincoln streets. Lincoln Street opened a few hours later, and Oxford Street reopened just before 11 a.m.
Damage to the apartment building behind the Lewiston House of Pizza appeared severe. The building had one apartment on each floor. The third floor was unoccupied.
The fourth floor appeared to have taken the brunt of the fire. Portions of the roof were gone and the rear porch was charred.
Investigators from the Lewiston Fire Department were at the scene, along with Lewiston police and a member of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
"It doesn't appear to be intentionally set," Lewiston police Lt. Michael McGonagle said. "However, there are some circumstances we are looking into."
An adjacent apartment building at 32½ Oxford Street has one wall positioned just 17 inches from the back of the burned building. Yet, it only sustained minor damage, said Randy Laliberte, who lives on the building's second floor.
He woke at about 2:45 a.m. and was in the bathroom when he heard noises outside, he said. When he looked out a window and saw billowing smoke, he first thought it was snowing. A moment later, he realized the truth.
He ran outside and saw the fire. He was calling 911 as firefighters arrived.
"The Lewiston Fire Department and the others did such a fine job," Laliberte said. "My son and I thought we lost our place."
At its height, flames from the back of 32 Oxford St. were so big they obscured the porch, he said.
"It looked like a square piece of flame," Laliberte said. "It was that engulfed in flames."
Yet, the adjacent building, where five people live including Laliberte and his son, Scott, never ignited.