LEWISTON — Hours after two apartment buildings burned next door — just feet from his Howe Street home — Wayne White decided to leave Lewiston.

“I’ve already told my wife, ‘We’re going to move,’ because I can’t take a chance,” he said. “We’re going to go somewhere where it’s more country, where the houses aren’t so close together.”

There are too many fires here, he said.

Last year, White lived on Bartlett Street, across from one of the catastrophic fires that burned in the downtown last April and May, displacing 200 people.

Thursday morning, he woke to explosions and yelling and sirens. And by the afternoon, he was worrying about his wife, Jennifer, and their 15-month-old daughter, Aaliyahrose.

“I have to think of them first,” he said.


Police and fire officials counseled vigilance Thursday afternoon, telling people to watch for others who seem suspicious.

“Neighbors know their community and their neighborhood better than anybody else,” Lewiston police Chief Michael Bussiere said. “They would know when somebody’s out of place or when somebody’s acting suspicious.”

It’s little comfort for people who were scared last spring and thought this was over.

Michele Wagner watched the fire from two blocks away on Howard Street as the fears from last year returned.

Buildings in-between blocked her view of 21 and 23 Howe St., where Thursday’s biggest fires occurred. But she woke to the explosions as the buildings burned. She saw the flames.

“We actually had papers that were on fire fly over and land in our yard,” she said. “You just heard people screaming.”


Then, she heard there were three other fires. All were set, officials set.

“My fear is like a 10,” Wagner said, choking up. “It’s like I’m honestly going to start packing a bag to grab and go. It is really scary to live here. It used to be a good town. It’s not anymore.”

It would take a lot to make her feel safe again, she said.

After last spring’s fires, it took the whole summer for Jean Forgues of Knox Street to relax again.

“I had things packed in my living room, just so I could grab my puppy and go out the door,” said Forgues, a tiny elderly woman.

She didn’t know what might make her feel safe again.


Jennifer Scott, who lives in an apartment on nearby Horton Street, said she moved to the neighborhood a year ago.

“It is scary,” she said. “The weekend I moved in was the weekend they had the Bartlett Street fire.”

She moved from the country.

“I’ve always been nervous of living in the city with any type of fire,” she said. “A lot of these buildings are close together, and it’s a scary thought to have to start over, me and my four children.”

She woke Thursday to people pounding on her door.

“It is scary to think that there are people out there who can do this to families, to anybody, and have no remorse for what they’re doing,” Scott said.


Police are responding, Chief Bussiere said. He declined to describe what was being done.

Wagner believes police need to be a presence in the downtown and too many people are moving around at night.

“I think there ought to be a curfew,” she said. “I feel like there should be more patrolling done in all of the areas.”

It’s not only a police problem, Wagner said.

“I think people should be more aware of their surroundings,” she said. “If they see something strange, they need to call it in. Get involved, damn it.”

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