LEWISTON — Dozens of people were rousted from their apartments Thursday after fire ripped through a ceiling in a six-story apartment house on Blake Street.

Fire and police ushered several families from their homes at 220 Blake St. after flames were reported on an upper floor at about 6:30 p.m.

Police said everybody from the building was accounted for by 7 p.m.

Hundreds of people jammed the streets, sidewalks and parking lots at Birch and Blake streets as fire crews from Lewiston and Auburn battled the blaze.

In all, nine families were left homeless by the blaze, although fire officials said most may be able to return to their apartments by the end of the day Friday.

An electrical issue was blamed — Lewiston Fire Inspector Paul Ouellette said it appeared an electrical short in the attic caused insulation to catch on fire and flames spread from there.

A mother who lives on the top floor said she was at home when her apartment started to fill with smoke. Soon, the entire building was filling with smoke and some witnesses reported seeing flames on the roof.

Fire crews attacked the fire from inside and outside of the building. Crews blasted water onto the roof from a ladder truck at Pierce Street Park, behind the burning building.

Police blocked off a section of Blake Street between Birch and Maple streets. An hour after the fire was reported, firefighters from both Lewiston and Auburn were still searching for hot spots inside the building.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known. Also unknown was whether the dozens who live inside the building — at least half of them children, neighbors said — will be able to return to their homes.

“Everything I own is in there,” said one man, who was watching the action from a parking lot on the corner. “Everything.”

By 7:30 p.m., police were speaking to people who live in apartment houses next to the burning building. Those residents were not forced to leave.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross sent representatives to the scene to begin helping those displaced by the fire. Ouellette said electrical power to the building was turned off overnight. On Friday, electrical inspectors will look over the building and make repairs before tenants are allowed back into their homes.

The tenant from the top floor may be out for a longer period, Ouellette said, as repairs are made to the ceiling and to the roof.


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