LEWISTON – A father and his two children were left homeless Monday after a fire gutted their Main Street apartment.

Michael Hodge told investigators that he was sleeping at about 3 p.m. when he was thrown to the floor by a loud explosion. When he got up, Hodge noticed his kitchen was full of smoke.

As Hodge’s son and daughter struggled to open the front door, Hodge attempted to check the basement.

After spotting flames from the top of the steps, he ran outside after his 14-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. Both children were taken to the hospital where they were checked for injuries and released.

Barefoot and wrapped in a large blanket, Hodge stayed at the scene and watched from across the street as everything in his apartment turned to ash while thick, black smoke poured onto Main Street.

It took firefighters nearly two hours to get the fire under control. The cause of the blaze remained under investigation Monday night.

Pete Morrell, an investigator for the Lewiston Fire Department, determined that the fire started near a motorcyle stored in the basement, but he was not able to confirm that the motorcycle caused the explosion.

“I’m going to be tearing it apart tomorrow to see what I can find,” Morrell said about the Honda motorbike.

The oil furnace and electrical system were ruled out as possible sources, Morrell said.

Nestled between a beauty salon and an auction business, the small one-story building at 417A Main St. used to be a business. The owners, Stanley and Nancy Hinds, converted it to a residential property about seven years ago.

Hodge and his children moved in about six months ago, according to the Hinds.

“The key issue here is that no one was hurt,” said Stanley Hinds, shortly after getting to the scene. “That is all that matters.”

As neighbors and other spectators speculated about the cause of the explosion, Hinds and his wife said they had no idea what could have caused it.

“We’re just as baffled as everyone else,” said Nancy Hinds.

At times, the smoke was so black and heavy that the firefighters in front of the building could not be seen.

According to Morrell, the dark, thick smoke was typical for a wood-framed structure. It also was an indication that the fire did start in the basement.

Morrell speculated that Hodge’s children had trouble opening the front door because the explosion shifted the entire building.

Firefighters managed to keep businesses on either side of the apartment – the former Just Teazin beauty salon and My Auction Stop – from catching fire. The only damage to 417 Main St. was melted siding.

The Hinds own that building as well. Formerly Wireless Worx, a retail cellular phone store, the couple now operates an e-Bay auction business from the property.

The fire started as children were being let out of school, causing major traffic snarls on both sides of Main Street for about two hours.

Jessica Johnson, a tenant of 415 Main St., was waiting for her daughter to come home when she heard what sounded like a car crash.

“I looked out of my window and smoke was pouring from the roof,” Johnson said. “I called 911 and ran outside. That’s when I saw that the front of the building next door was gone.”

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