MEXICO – Fighting a late afternoon fire from inside the third floor of a Granite Street building on Tuesday was a dangerous job for Mexico and Rumford firefighters.

Not only did they have to contend with a lot of smoke and low visibility, but entire stairwells and stairs had been removed from the former apartment complex at 140 Granite St., fire Chief Gary Wentzell said on scene.

“It’s an unsafe building,” said Wentzell. “Because they had started gutting the building, stairwells were missing. It was real dangerous. There was just a hole up there and someone could have fallen through from the third floor to the basement. It’s terrible. There’s nothing to protect anyone from falling into the basement.”

There were no injuries.

A state fire investigator will conduct interviews on Wednesday and try to determine a cause. Wentzell said he also called for an inspection by Mexico’s code enforcement officer to have the larger part of the building declared unsafe.

He credited a Time Warner cable truck driver with spotting the fire shortly before 4:28 p.m. and alerting three young children in the building to get out. Mexico and Rumford firefighters and a Med-Care Ambulance crew were sent to the scene of smoke coming out of the third-story roof. White smoke pouring out of the house could be seen from across the Androscoggin River on Route 108.

Wentzell said the fire was against a wall. Firefighters had a difficult time reaching it because they had to cut through three to four layers of roof, the outside of which was metal.

The building is owned by Rebecca Slocum, whom Wentzell said bought it through a bank auction in 2006. It was not known if the building was insured, but Slocum and her family were allowed to return to their first-floor home, which was in another part of the building farther away from the fire. It was not damaged, Wentzell said.

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