LEWISTON — More than a day after Leona Agulier’s home burned, the 72-year-old woman — who uses a wheelchair to get around — still wore the clothes she had on when she fled.

And she still had no shoes, but she was safe.

A friend had helped her walk out the front door of 21 Howe St. when her makeshift ramp burned Thursday morning. Firefighters rescued her wheelchair from the rubble of her first-floor apartment. And workers from the American Red Cross had connected her with her brother, Ernest Sturtevant of Colorado Springs, Colo., who heard about the devastating fire and began making frightened calls.

“It felt good to hear from my brother,” Agulier said Friday, sitting in her smoky-but-working wheelchair. “We always tell each other we love each other when we hang up.”

The Red Cross gave her a room at the Ramada Inn, one of the three local hotels that works with the charity. The others are the Super 8 Motel in Lewiston and the Fireside Inn & Suites in Auburn.

The Red Cross gave her a gift card to buy some clothes and food and was working Friday to provide transportation to a store.


“The hard assistance the American Red Cross provides is food, clothing and shelter,” said Eric Lynes, response manager for the American Red Cross of Maine.

In the wake of the catastrophic fire, the charity provided aid to dozens of people, not only residents of 21 and 23 Howe St. who lost their homes early Thursday but also to people from nearby apartments that were evacuated.

Volunteers gave them food and blankets and listened to their concerns. In some cases, volunteers brought people medicine. They gave people rides and helped as much as possible.

“We feel for the clients,” Lynes said. “We see the emotional trauma they go through.”

In all, the two nearby buildings left 30 people in eight families homeless, he said. Some found help from families. Many, like Agulier, needed help from the charity.

In her hotel room, Agulier answered calls from friends and strangers. Some wanted to know how she was managing. Others offered help.


On Friday, someone offered her a barely used wheelchair. A volunteer took her to an eye doctor to help her get a new pair of glasses.

And she wasn’t alone in getting help.

On Thursday, only hours after people began arriving at the Ramada, three people from Montello Elementary School arrived with bags of clothes and snacks.

Guidance counselor Cindy Smith and kindergarten teachers Kahlie Collier and Kim Guay grabbed items from their homes to donate. Children displaced by the fire are taught by Collier and Guay.

“It’s hard when you see kids every day and something like this happens,” said Guay, a mother of four. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Of the 30 people displaced by the fire, 11 were children, some as young as six months old.


Agulier saw people arrive with donations and praised the people who gave. She saw young parents fleeing the fire with small children. All looked frightened.

Agulier said she was determined to survive the fire, even as her brother worried.

When he heard the news, he called Lewiston’s two hospitals and then the American Red Cross, which has a long history of providing communication for people in trouble.

“He worries about me,” Agulier said of her brother.

But she’ll be all right with help. She has already talked with a landlord who has an apartment for her.

In a few days, she’ll have a new home, she said.

Meanwhile, she’ll try to replace some of her belongings that burned. She doesn’t have enough money to replace them all, she said.


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