Fire underscores dilemma of tenants, officials

The fiery death of a 9-year-old girl Monday in a Lewiston apartment that had no power and was being lit with a candle shouldn't have happened, said area landlord Mary Ann Norcross.

The body of Taylor McQueeney was found in an apartment where a candle left burning overnight ignited a bed, officials said. The flames destroyed two buildings, damaged three others and forced the evacuation of dozens of people.

In a story published two days before Monday's fire, Norcross, who owns several Lewiston-Auburn
apartment buildings, tried to warn about such situations, saying if a tenant's power has been disconnected, a
landlord cannot find out unless the tenant lets them know. She said Central Maine Power Co. doesn't notify landlords due to customer privacy rules.

The reason for that rule is to protect consumers' privacy, said Derek Davidson, director of the Consumer Assistance Division of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. However, the state rule does not prohibit CMP from disclosing disconnections to safety officials, Davidson said Monday.

John Carroll, Central Maine Power corporate spokesman, said Monday there wasn't much he could say about the tragedy. "It was a terrible thing. My condolences to the family," he said. "We'll cooperate with any investigation."

He declined to comment further on the specific case, but did say during the winter it's rare for CMP to disconnect power because of the hardship that would create. Different rules apply from April 15 through Nov. 15.

We really try and work with customers having a difficult time paying their bill," he said. Customers are referred to public assistance programs and a number of other programs available in the winter.

When customers fall behind "we send them bills and notices." Customers are offered payment plans or ways to pay with credit cards. "Before we disconnect we call several times and visit the building once or twice," Carroll said. "We do what we can."

The director of the Lewiston's Planning and Code Enforcement said renters using candles because their power has been turned off does happen. "But I don't think it's a significant problem," Gil Arsenault said.

Kim Wettlaufer, executive director of the Trinity Jubilee Center, an inner city social service program, said more are living in downtown apartments where the power has been turned off because they didn't pay the electric bills. His program helps feed the poor, but is not set up to help with utility costs, he said.

"I've been getting a lot more people saying their power is about to be shut off in the last couple of months," he said. "More are asking for help."

Lewiston Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said officials should know
when electricity is turned off for nonpayment when it puts others at
risk, including an apartment building with several units and other
buildings close by.

"With so many people losing heat and electricity in a terrible
economy, it seems really dangerous for people not to know," Rotundo
said. "I am looking into it."

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Amy Cote's picture

JFYI.. i am Taylors

JFYI..
i am Taylors aunt and IT WASNT ANYONE related to us.. the 2 men where my dad's cousins' son's not my brother.. Taylor only had ONE UNCLE that she cared for.. he payed attention to her like the rest of us did. She called this guy uncle craig because that's what she was told to say.. not by us...my brother was no where near lewiston on Monday mornin when the fire started.. he lives in Leeds with our sister Lena, and i live in Livermore falls.. and me and Lena r the only 2 that have children besides Taylor's mom .. and our kids weren't down there at all till later monday morning.. our children are hurting very much.. we would of never ever ever let Taylor go out that late and definitely not with 3 older men that we didn't know much about .. maybe becky (her mother) did know them..but we did not. please respect us as i write this .. it was the ******BF who said it was an uncle and cousins.. apparently he didn't have a clue who he was sending my niece to .. to sleep over. I'm extremely upset about this misleading information and so is my brother..it like feeling betrayed. if anyone wants more information about this matter please feel free to contact me.. queenbzz2u@ yahoo.com
thanks you all for your prayers and thoughts.
Sincerely, Amy Cote

Melissa  Dunn's picture

Hi Amy... My deepest and

Hi Amy... My deepest and sincerest thoughts are with you and your whole family during this difficult time. I told your sister, as I will do with you-IF YOU NEED ANYTHING-please, please, please let me know.

Debi Ireland's picture

God Bless you Taylor, you

God Bless you Taylor, you are now in the arms of the angels.

TV / Video games or electricity...Well we know what the priorities are! Some-one MUST be held accountable for this young ones death....and it's not CMP. How is it 3 Grown men make it out, yet the child didn't... Did they even try to help Taylor? If there was drugs, did something else happen? What was she doing alone with these men...Any chance this was arson made to look like an accident?

Melissa  Dunn's picture

Quoted from Above "The

Quoted from Above "The director of the Lewiston's Planning and Code Enforcement said renters using candles because their power has been turned off does happen. "But I don't think it's a significant problem," Gil Arsenault said."

How many times does a similar situation HAVE to occur? Shouldn't it have NOT even happened!?! Would it have taken everyone in the buildings to be harmed? It is true that we can't control what tenants chose to do or not do in their own 'homes'. I think anyone would result in burning candles and oil lamps for some kind of lighting if their power has been shut off. We've even heard stories of people using generators during winter months and dying or getting sick from carbon monoxide in an enclosed home. Its a normal act to try to do something like this in an act of desperation to have light or keep warm. A simple mistake.

CMP and other power companies are in the same category as people who sell oil/gas... in a sense. Its all about money while polluting our atmosphere!

Aside from this horrific tragedy-I think we have failed miserably in the State of Maine and CMP somewhere, somehow along the line of not having a better program/help for energy. NOT everyone can get a credit card because of lack of credit, no credit, or bad credit. It sounds like an easy thing to do. Times are hard and they seem to get harder-I wish that there was an better way to help our fellow neighbors in times on need. Better programs. Through the summer and winter. "Different rules apply from April 15 through Nov. 15." Does anyone remember how cold it was in Oct. last year-in the very beginning at that! It is difficult to get any kind of help! It's impossible to get help if you're a working class citizen-working everyday of your life-overtime... aside from the fact that ordinary people can't predict what tomorrow entails! Stuff happens, life happens... loss of job, what have you!

CMP is non-negotiable. It's on their terms whether you make the effort or not. You are late you say you can pay this much and they say no you have till this date to pay this+++ much! It's on their terms whether you've been paying in full the whole time. Then it causes panic and everything else... and deciding if that you're only going to eat maybe one time a day to have at least a few more dollars to pay them so you don't get shut off. I think they should be more willing to help people and more willing to take what the person can give in their time of need. Not everyone is a waste case or doesn't think that not paying them is no big deal. Plain and simple.

BTW-Never heard of CMP visiting a place before disconnecting! Never seen it either! What would be there purpose? DO MORE!

Melissa  Dunn's picture

I pretty much wrote this in

I pretty much wrote this in response to CMP and CMP only... because that is pretty much what this particular story is in reference to as far as payment plan and help.

this is so sad and a

this is so sad and a situation that could have been prevented...why was this little girl staying at a place with 3 grown men???these were not cousins that were her age and that she played with obviously!!!these men let someone place a candle too close to a bed or flamable material...did anyone check on this poor child at all or is she the victim of stupid people...sounds like the priority of the person who rented this apartment was T.V. and video games...no mater what we say in these comments, the situation will never change for these slobs...if they smoke, I am sure they had cigarettes, and if they smoke weed, I am sure they had weed, and if they drink, I am sure they had their alchohol...paying a bill to keep their power going, come on...if they do that they wouldn't be able to have their vices...the cause of this fire was a candle left burning by stupid men and they didn't bother to check on this child as they ran off like scared little babies...the blame is on them and may this child rest in peace

this is so sad and a

this is so sad and a situation that could have been prevented...why was this little girl staying at a place with 3 grown men???these were not cousins that were her age and that she played with obviously!!!these men let someone place a candle too close to a bed or flamable material...did anyone check on this poor child at all or is she the victim of stupid people...sounds like the priority of the person who rented this apartment was T.V. and video games...no mater what we say in these comments, the situation will never change for these slobs...if they smoke, I am sure they had cigarettes, and if they smoke weed, I am sure they had weed, and if they drink, I am sure they had their alchohol...paying a bill to keep their power going, come on...if they do that they wouldn't be able to have their vices...the cause of this fire was a candle left burning by stupid men and they didn't bother to check on this child as they ran off like scared little babies...the blame is on them and may this child rest in peace

Melissa  Dunn's picture

maybe next time you want to

maybe next time you want to question and bash someone-try learning all the facts before coming to a conclusion!

Phyllis Rand's picture

My understanding is the

My understanding is the building code requires hardwired smoke detectors WITH batteries in case of power failure. That's what I had to have installed when I added two bedrooms to my house.

ok so now lets not blaime

ok so now lets not blaime the adults right, even if cmp did contact the landlord what would she have done? pay there light bill for these 3 men who cant help a 9 year old escape from a fire because there such cowards. they dont deserve much help.. i myself have some hard times and cmp never wants to shut ur power off they always work with u. these men clearly did not try hard enough or even care, they were now getting there tv and gaming for free from another apartment. this poor child should have never lost her life. goes to show even a 39 yr old may never grow up!

Leslie Michaud's picture

Perhaps Mr. Arsenault would

Perhaps Mr. Arsenault would like to reconsider his thoughts about the significance of this problem. Those old tenements are fire traps, add open flames, I'd say it's a miracle there are not more tragedies of this sort.

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