LEWISTON — By Sunday, weekend rains left an inch of water in Venise and Everett Ridley’s basement. Then it rose and rose. It swamped her washer and dryer and soiled her clothes.

By noontime Monday — and slogging through 3 feet of water — she called 911.

“I didn’t know how to stop it,” Venise Ridley said. “But a friend told me to call the Fire Department.”

By the time they reached Ridley’s home, Engine 4’s team of six firefighters were old hands fighting flooded basements. Sunday, there were 11 such calls. On Monday, this was their third.

And they started with the same simple warning they gave at every flooded basement: Don’t touch the water.

“One step in that water and you can get killed,” Lt. John Cloutier, who led the Engine 4 team, said.

Too many folks seem to think they can wade into the flooded water and rescue their belongings but there is a danger of electrocution. Luckily, he had seen no electrical injuries during this storm. But crews had already seen too many people taking that risk, he said.

“We try to help people out, to lend a hand,” Cloutier said. “It’s been raining nonstop.”

On Sunday, one of the homes they saw had floodwaters that had risen as high as 6 feet, destroying everything in its basement.

Cloutier said people whose basements become damp or flood a little in the spring try to get by without a sump pump, which automatically expels water, Cloutier said.

Those basements were overwhelmed by this weekend’s rain.

Venise Ridley, whose home sits beside a brook, said she wasn’t worried when the water in her basement was 1 inch high. But when she woke Monday, she discovered the 3 feet of floodwater.

“I didn’t know what to do” until her friend told her to call the Fire Department, she said. 

“They call us when they don’t know who else to call,” Cloutier, whose team is trained to spray water rather than collect it, said.

At the Ridleys’ home, Cloutier’s first move was to call city electrician Gerard Caron.

Once he cleared the basement as a safe place to move, the firefighters dropped a heavy duty pump into the dark water and began emptying it through a one-and-three-quarter-inch hose at a rate of 30 gallons per minute.

The hose ran out a window and dumped the water a few feet shy of the brook. Less than two hours later, the water was almost gone.

Venise’s brother Ron Maillet, who helped in the cleanup, said the rest of the basement could be dried with a vacuum. But much of the contents might be lost.

A technician from Sears was due to look at the washer and dryer in a few days. A furnace technician was due in a week or so.

“They might all be fried,” Maillot said. When it seemed dry enough, he plugged in the dryer. “It didn’t make a sound.”

And there would be no insurance money to pay for new appliances, Venise Ridley said. Her routine homeowners policy wouldn’t cover the loss. And there was no policy for floods.

“We’re not in a flood plain,” she said. “I didn’t think we’d need it.”

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