LEWISTON – Flames were burning deep inside the Bates Mill early Wednesday morning and firefighters were trying to find a route to the blaze.

The fire was reported shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday by a passer-by who thought he smelled smoke, a fire official said. When fire crews arrived in the area of Museum L-A, they found flames on the upper section of the old mill.

Early reports were that the fire was in the elevator shaft between floors. Firefighters working on both sides of the building and on the roof were attempting to get to the flames to snuff them out.

Crews working from the alley behind the building, near DaVinci’s Eatery, encountered heat and smoke as they pressed into the building. A haze of smoke hung over the mill, visible from Lincoln Street on one side and from Canal Street on the other.

The blaze seemed to be centered in the area directly above the museum. By early Wednesday, it was unknown whether the museum or its contents were in jeopardy from fire, heat, smoke or water.

Auburn fire crews joined the effort before midnight. Lewiston Fire Investigator Paul Ouellette was sent to the scene. At about midnight, he was waiting to begin searching for a cause.

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