LEWISTON — Dick Lecompte walked on top of the city's tallest building Friday and found charred pieces of the Cowan Mill.
"Everything was coming right over here," Lecompte said from the roof of the seven-story Lisbon Street Professional Building, which he owns.
He watched Wednesday's Cowan Mill fire from the roof as embers and water from the hoses rained down. "My shirt was all soot-covered," Lecompte said.
Black pieces of debris were on his roof, but the roof didn't sustain any burns.
Other building owners weren't so lucky.
Eric Agren, who owns Fuel restaurant on Lisbon Street, had a burn hole the size of a softball repaired Friday.
During the fire, he went to his roof to watch. "While I was up there, an ember 2 or 3 inches in diameter fell and burned through my roof," Agren said. "I got to it with a fire extinguisher."
His building is 130 years old. Agren said he was fortunate he was on his roof to put out the fire. "It could have been a lot worse."
He was surprised that his roof burned. "Our building is quite a distance (from Cowan Mill) to have debris on fire, flying around."
One block farther from the fire, holes were burned into Park Street roofs owned by the Sun Journal.
"I was up on the roof (during the fire)," said Jim Costello Jr., vice president of operations. "I saw ash falling on it."
He called a roof company for an inspection. "We've got rubber roofs," Costello said. Rubber roofs are good for protecting against some elements, but not burning ash.
"They found burn holes in all five buildings," Costello said Friday. "They took a 5-gallon pail and half-filled it with various embers from the roofs. That's a lot," he said, especially considering the buildings are about five blocks from the fire.
It's a good idea for all property owners in the downtown area to inspect their roofs, said Gil Arsenault, the city of Lewiston's director of Planning and Code Enforcement.
"It's a lot easier to be proactive than have a problem," he said. It's not enough to look at a roof from a window or a distance. Most roofs are black. Darkened ash and small holes aren't easily visible.
"You need to walk it physically," Arsenault said.
In most cases there probably won't be damage, "but that was the worst fire I've ever seen," Arsenault said. Ash was reported as far away as Webster Street on the other side of Lewiston.
Industrial Roofing of Lewiston, which repaired the Sun Journal and Fuel roofs, are inspecting a lot of downtown roofs these days, said Business Manager Mike Davis.
If there's a small hole in the roof, it could take a few minutes and a few hundred dollars to patch. But if water gets in, it can cause rot, becoming a bigger, more expensive problem.
G & E Roofing of Augusta also had several downtown Lewiston customers call, saying they had burn holes in their roofs. Burn holes in roofs are "relatively uncommon," Sue Grenier said.
Stan Barnies was among those who repaired roofs at the Sun Journal and Fuel for Industrial Roofing. Crews walked the roofs looking for holes and found burned debris of various sizes, including some 2 feet wide and paper thin, others the size of a dollar bill and an inch and a half thick.
As a roof repairer, Barnies watched the fire Wednesday, paying special attention to burning Cowan Mill fragments falling on roofs.
"We're lucky we didn't have more fires," he said.