LEWISTON – A 72-year-old woman fled her burning apartment with singed hair and a blackened face Monday after a Knox Street apartment house went up in flames.
Carmen Palardy was not seriously hurt escaping the blaze, but she was one of several people who rushed from the burning building with children and pets.
“I’m just a little nervous,” Palardy said, as she sat next to a police van speaking with a fire inspector. The back of her hair was singed and there were dark spots across her face from the smoke.
The fire was believed to have been caused by an electrical short in Palardy’s apartment.
The blaze started in the first floor at 66 Knox St. at about 4 p.m. Witnesses said flames shot from the first floor windows and black smoke filled the air.
On the third floor, Nicki Record was at home with her three children, a cat and a dog. She was alerted to the fire by smoke alarms sounding throughout the building.
“The alarms went off and by then, the hallway was filled with smoke,” Record said. “I got my kids together and got them out. Once we were outside, I saw flames coming from the first floor. I had to go back up to get my dog.”
The building that burned is near the corner of Knox and Maple streets. Police shut down that section of Knox Street while fire crews from Lewiston and Auburn attacked the flames and broke out windows to clear the building of smoke.
“I came running over when I saw the smoke, and about that time, the firefighters were knocking out the windows,” said Patricia Bailey, who lives nearby. “There were flames shooting out the windows on the first floor. It was pretty scary.”
Police who arrived on Knox Street moments after the fire began helped clear tenants out of the building while the fire department was on the way. Officer Ryan Rawstrom and other officers helped carry pet cats from the building once all the tenants were cleared.
Fire investigator Paul Ouellette went into the burned building to investigate the cause of the blaze once the fire was out. He said it appeared the fire started next to a power outlet inside the first-floor apartment.
By Monday night building landlord Rex Thorton was busy boarding up windows as tenants were gathering items from their apartments.
Record, whose 2-, 3- and 5-year-old children stayed with a neighbor while the fire was being battled, watched smoke fill her apartment and firefighters smashing windows out. She was expecting to find alternative living arrangements for the night.
“I’ve got to make sure my kids have everything they need,” she said. “That’s my priority.”
Palardy was the only tenant on the first floor. Another woman lived on the second floor and Record lived on the third with her boyfriend and three children.
The Salvation Army sent representatives to Knox Street to help provide clothes and temporary residence to the seven displaced occupants.
Besides the cats that survived the blaze, a pet snake kept on the third floor was found alive and healthy once the fire was under control.