Scope of destruction hampers origin search

Flames burst from a Sunday morning fire at the corner of Maine and Mason streets in Brunswick. The fire damaged the building to the extent that it had to be demolished Sunday afternoon.
Times Record photo courtesy of Sherry Emmons
Flames burst from a Sunday morning fire at the corner of Maine and Mason streets in Brunswick. The fire damaged the building to the extent that it had to be demolished Sunday afternoon.
Posted April 20, 2011, at 4:03 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Investigators from the Brunswick Fire and Police departments and the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office said Tuesday afternoon that the cause of a fire that destroyed the 1837 building at the corner of Maine and Mason streets early Sunday morning will “remain officially undetermined.”

However, Investigator Chris Stanford of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office said that because of evidence uncovered, “We cannot rule out the possibility of an electrical malfunction.”

Meanwhile, even as investigators prepared to head to the site Tuesday morning, Brunswick police on Monday night recovered figurines and copper piping taken from the fire scene, and said three males in their 20s have been identified as possible suspects in a theft investigation.

Just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Brunswick firefighters and then mutual aid from nine other agencies went to the blaze, which ultimately blew out of control.

At one point, firefighters were evacuated from the building after flames exploded out of the windows. One of the building’s 17 residents was rescued from a third-floor window.

On Sunday, the building was demolished. Early Tuesday morning, contractor Mike Ouellet of Ouellet Associates joined investigators from all three agencies at the scene and descended into the building’s basement wearing hard hats and, at times, respirators and goggles.

Later, excavator operator Larry Shaw of Harry C. Crooker & Sons arrived, driving the heavy equipment up and onto the massive piles of rubble.

Brunswick Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Emerson, Brunswick police detectives and state fire marshal’s investigators scrutinized shovels full of bricks, burned boards and an occasional boot, blanket or laundry basket, looking for the origin of the fire.

Before noon, Brunswick police Lt. Mark Waltz began assembling burned treads and risers from what was the Mason Street entrance to the building — the location where investigators determined the fire ignited, somewhere between the basement and the second floor.

The exact location is not known because of the extensive damage from the fire.

While investigators cannot rule out a potential electrical malfunction, Stanford said that does not mean it was necessarily the cause of the fire.

More important, “There were no indicators of arson,” he said.

Stanford on Tuesday praised all three agencies for their cooperation in the investigation.

Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Emerson of the Brunswick Fire Department confirmed Tuesday that the building had “outstanding [fire] code issues,” and that building owner Orville Ranger was working with the Brunswick Fire Department and Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office to resolve the problems.

Emerson declined to comment further at this time.

Ranger did not return phone calls placed Monday by The Times Record.

See more news from The Times Record at http://www.timesrecord.com/.

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