BAR HARBOR, Maine — A house fire late Tuesday night in downtown Bar Harbor injured one man and resulted in significant damage to a house used for employee housing, according to the town fire chief.
The fire on Roberts Square, a cul-de-sac in Bar Harbor’s densely packed downtown, was reported about 15 minutes before midnight, Fire Chief David Rand said. He estimated that about 10 people were in the building, which is owned and used as employee housing by restaurateur Tom Testa.
One man was injured as he tried to get away from the smoke and flames on the third floor of the building, the chief said.
According to Rand, police Officer Eric McLaughlin was one of the first people at the scene and saw the man leaning out a third-floor window away from the billowing smoke. McLaughlin grabbed a ladder from a construction site across the street, Rand said, and managed to get it into position over a fence and through tree branches so the man could get down away from the flames.
The man was taken to Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor and treated for smoke inhalation and a cut to his hand, the chief said.
“Smoke and flames were licking his [backside],” Rand said. “[The fire] was humming.”
Rand said he believes the man since has been released from the hospital.
Firefighters at the scene also had to rescue another occupant off a porch roof, according to Rand.
According to Amanda Austin, manager at Testa’s, all the residents in the home lost most of their possessions. Austin said Wednesday that she lives in the same house during the summer, but stayed Tuesday night at her winter home in Franklin, about 45 minutes away.
Austin said a friend of several Testa’s employees discovered the fire when he stopped at the house shortly before midnight. Some of the residents had just gotten off work and were still out, while others had gone to sleep, she said. One was in the house listening to music with headphones and had no idea there was a fire upstairs.
“He ran in and woke everyone up, thank God,” Austin said. “They don’t have any idea [how the fire started].”
One resident lost a cat to the fire, but another cat and a dog were saved, the restaurant manager said. She said friends and neighbors already have donated clothes to people who lost theirs in the blaze. None of the affected employees is a visa worker, she said, so they do not have to contact friends or family overseas for assistance.
As for housing, Austin said she is not sure where everyone will stay. Several people have been offered temporary housing with friends.
“We’re scrambling for housing,” she said. “We have only 18 days left [until the restaurant closes for the winter].”
Austin said the restaurant would be closed Wednesday night, when it usually is open for dinner, but that it would re-open this morning for its normal schedule of three meals a day.
According to officials with the Pine Tree Chapter of the Red Cross, the organization will provide financial assistance to all affected residents so they can replace lost food, clothing and medication. Temporary housing and counseling will be provided on an as-needed basis, chapter officials said Wednesday in a press release.
Rand said residents of the building were put up Tuesday night at a nearby bed and breakfast.
On Wednesday, debris was scattered about the property as investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office sifted through rubble inside trying to determine how the fire started. Pink insulation and a damaged lamp lay on the porch roof, while a melted trashcan sat in the driveway. In the back of the house, the ladder McLaughlin propped up for the third-floor resident still leaned against the exterior wall directly below a window with broken panes.
McLaughlin was not working Wednesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.
According to Rand, he had not yet heard any indication of what the cause may have been.
“We haven’t even started the interviews,” he said.
Rand said most of the damage seems to be to the building’s second and third floors. He was not sure if the building is insured, though he said it likely is, or whether it might be salvageable.
“They might be able to repair it,” he said. “There is a lot of structural damage.”
Rand said a few dozen firefighters from Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor and Trenton helped contain and then extinguish the fire. There was no damage to any nearby buildings, he said.