Lewiston apartment blaze started in marijuana grow room

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A fire that began on the second floor of an apartment building at College and Vale streets in Lewiston spread to the third floor and caused extensive damage but no injuries Tuesday morning, a fire official said.

A fire broke out Tuesday morning in a second-floor apartment at College and Vale streets.

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A fire broke out Tuesday morning in a second-floor apartment at College and Vale streets.

A fire broke out Tuesday morning in a second-floor apartment at College and Vale streets.

A fire broke out Tuesday morning in a second-floor apartment at College and Vale streets.

Fire breaks out of a third-floor apartment Tuesday morning at College and Vale streets in Lewiston. Firefighters had just put out a fire in the apartment below.

A fire broke out Tuesday morning in a second-floor apartment at College and Vale streets.

Firefighters check out the roof Tuesday morning after fire broke out in the second and third floors in the apartment building at College and Vale streets in Lewiston. 

LEWISTON — Six people were left homeless Tuesday morning after a tent covering marijuana plants in a second-floor apartment on College Street caught fire, a fire official said.

No one was injured in the blaze that caused up to $100,000 damage, mostly to the second and third floors, Fire Inspector-Investigator Paul Ouellette said.

He said the second-floor tenant had a medical marijuana card and had been growing plants for his own use in a bedroom that had been converted into a “grow room.” What set the tent on fire was undetermined, he said, and the cause was ruled accidental.

The tenant alerted his girlfriend who was asleep in another bedroom and they left the apartment, Ouellette said.

Ann Celeste, who lives across College Street from the building, spotted the fire on the the second floor.

“I saw the flames coming out of the window and said, ‘Oh my God!'” she said. “It was unbelievable to see those flames coming out like that. I just kept praying that nobody was up there.”

She fumbled for her phone to call 911, but saw trucks arriving at the scene.

She was watching firefighters inside the building when flames shot from a third-floor window and she worried tenants would be trapped.

“Oh my God, those flames were unbelievable,” she said.

Just after 9 a.m., heavy flames were shooting from the second-story windows on the College Street side of the building and 30 minutes later firefighters reported it was under control. Minutes later, flames spread to the third floor and firefighters moved out of the building to extinguish the fire from outside. By 10 a.m., the fire was mostly under control, with crews using a chain saw to cut through the roof to vent the fire. 

The 1920 wooden structure at College and Vale streets has three apartments with two people in each.

Smoke alarms alerted those inside, Ouellette said.

Eric Lynes, emergency services director at the American Red Cross, said there were two tenants on floors.

William Davis, who lives on the first floor with a roommate, arrived on the scene after the fire had spread to the third floor. He said he was worried about the damage to his apartment.

Ouellette said the first floor had water damage.

Third-floor tenant Andrew White said a friend texted him a picture of the building with flames coming out of windows, saying “Your house is on fire.”

White, who works as a metal fabricator, rushed home. He had dropped off his 3-year-old daughter at day care earlier in the morning.

“I pretty much lost everything,” he said.

He had been saving to buy a house and was readying to move out of the apartment. All of his and his daughter’s possessions, including their clothes and irreplaceable photos and documents, were lost, he said.

He didn’t have renter’s insurance.

He said he has family and friends who will be able to house him and his daughter until he figures out what to do next.

Ouellette said he called the State Fire Marshal’s Office to assist, given the significant amount of damage.

He said all tenants would be put up in a hotel by the American Red Cross, which was on scene.

Fire crews from Auburn also responded, Ouellette said. 

 

Firefighters put out a fire Tuesday morning in a second-floor apartment at College and Vale streets in Lewiston. None of the six tenants were injured, but they were left homeless, officials said.

Firefighters battle flames in an apartment building at College and Vale streets in Lewiston on Tuesday morning. There were no injuries, an official said.

Lewiston firefighters douse flames in a three-story apartment building at College and Vale streets Tuesday morning. None of the six tenants were hurt, but they were left homeless.

Firefighters extinguish a fire Tuesday morning in the second-floor apartment at College and Vale streets in Lewiston. Flames spread to the third floor before being brought under control. There were no injuries, but six tenants were left homeless, officials said.

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