LEWISTON — Local and state fire investigators Wednesday were trying to determine the cause of a blaze that ripped through a former Pineland Lumber building Tuesday night on Avon Street.

Members of the Maine Office of State Fire Marshal on Wednesday inspect the scene of a Tuesday night fire on Avon Street in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Several people, including neighbors who live in the area, reported that the empty building has been a popular spot for homeless people and drug users.

“You see a lot of homeless people walking around, coming through the woods and over the fence,” said Wayne Bingelis, who lives in the neighborhood. “That building has been abandoned for a long time; it was supposedly being used for storage.”

Several community members said they have been voicing frustration over the state of the abandoned buildings within the Sunnyside neighborhood for years. One resident said he led a walking tour with code enforcement officials and City Councilor Safiya Khalid this past June.

On another occasion around the same time, he took Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, through the area to talk about trouble with some the abandoned properties.

In November, city officials approved changes to a financial agreement with the developers of a 245-unit apartment complex meant for that area. Work on the project had been stalled for months.


The City Council in November signed off on an amended tax increment financing agreement with developer Saxon Partners, extending the timeline for construction of the “Residence at Great Falls” to the spring of 2025.

The development at the former Pineland Lumber site was originally slated for completion this coming spring. The city approved the initial financing agreement in December 2019, but Saxon did not close on the purchase of the property until March of this year.

The building went up in flames at about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The blaze gutted the building before firefighters knocked the flames down. On Wednesday, Lewiston fire inspectors were joined by investigators from the Office of State Fire Marshal.

By early Wednesday night, there was no official word on the cause.

Some neighbors said there has been growing trouble in the area in and around the building over recent months.


“The neighborhood has gotten worse over time,” said Morris Polin. “Some homeless guy, all high on meth, came up to my driveway and was pushing my wife.”

Lewiston Fire Inspector Paul Ouellette leads a group of investigators Wednesday behind 10 Avon St. in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“I heard that they’re supposed to build bedroom studio apartments there, but that was a while ago and they haven’t started,” said Richard Dahlquist, who lives across the street from the property. “I wish they would. Maybe they should just take it all down, imagine the view. The city should really push for change, for that space to be changed. I usually see kids around here: three of them, about (age) 13 or 12.”

Another neighbor, John Tyler, said he heard an explosion Tuesday night on Avon Street and then saw smoke coming from the building. Tyler said a fire official had been asking if he’d seen a group of kids near the scene.

The investigation was ongoing Wednesday night and no further information was available.

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