LEWISTON — An unattended candle is being blamed for an early-morning fire that left two Elm Street families looking for a place to stay on Monday.

Lewiston Fire Department Investigator Paul Ouellette said the fire at 27 Elm St. broke out about 3:07 a.m. The blaze caused about $60,000 damage to the two-family apartment building owned by Rex Thornton of Metro Real Estate Co. He said a majority of the fire damage was contained to the bathroom and kitchen of the first-floor apartment and the kitchen of the second-floor apartment.

“Those areas are burned, but the rest of the building received heavy smoke and water damage,” Ouellette said.

Ouellette said that the cause of the fire was determined to be a large, unattended candle that was left burning in the bathroom by the occupants of the first-floor apartment, Ashley Beilefleur and Jacob Daskoski. He said the couple lit the candle in the bathroom Sunday morning around 11 a.m. prior to leaving for a trip to New Hampshire to visit relatives.

The electricity had been turned off to the apartment due to non-payment, and Ouellette was unsure whether or not the couple was using the candle as a light source.

Ouellette said the couple left the candle burning when they departed and authorities believe it eventually caught fire to the plastic drawers on which it was sitting. The blaze spread through the bathroom into the kitchen area and then spread through the walls to the second floor of the building.

The family living on the second floor — Cheryl Parker, John Dorr and their son, Timothy — escaped without injury. Beilefleur and Daskoski didn’t fair as well; two of the couple’s six cats perished in the blaze.

Ouellette said 15 Lewiston firefighters responded to the blaze and had the structure fire under control by 4:38 a.m. Auburn Fire Department provided mutual aid.

Beilefleur and Daskoski returned to New Hampshire to stay with family, while Parker and Dorr were assisted by the American Red Cross. 

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