PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Maine Fire Marshal’s Office says an elderly Presque Isle woman who died in an apartment fire on Monday was smoking while on oxygen.
Fire investigators say the body of 78-year-old Eleanor Gould was found after firefighters extinguished the fire, which was reported about 2:30 p.m. Monday.
Officials say Gould was found by a caregiver who had stopped by to visit.
“We had the fire knocked down in 20 minutes, but it was fully engulfed when we arrived,” said Presque Isle Deputy Fire Chief Richard Wark.
The 911 call reporting a fire at the Mountain View Apartments building at 53 Dupont St. came in at 2:32 p.m., and fire and rescue units were on the scene in four minutes.
“The fire was starting to extend up into the apartment above [when firefighters arrived],” Wark said.
Fire Chief Darrell White said Tuesday that neighbors informed firefighters right away that there were still people in the building.
Firefighters initially believed there were at least three people in the building, but a search confirmed Gould was the only resident left inside.
White said Gould was disabled and had a motorized scooter in her apartment.
“We believe she had difficulty getting around,” he said. “That was what we heard from neighbors on the scene.”
Gould’s body was found in the living room of her apartment. There was fire and smoke damage to her residence and to a second apartment above hers, according to the fire marshal’s office.
White said only one tenant will need to find a new residence. The other tenants were able to return to the building, which is owned by Phil Halvorson, after the fire was extinguished. One of the burned apartments was being cleaned out Tuesday afternoon.
Jason Thibodeau of Caribou, who was visiting his girlfriend at the apartment complex Tuesday afternoon, said he had seen Gould on a few occasions over the past few years.
“She seemed to keep to herself,” he said. “I had seen her only a few times and I don’t believe she had a car. I know that some of the residents and other people who would stop by would bring her groceries and offer to help her with chores.”
Katherine Lajoie, who lives close to the fire scene, said she was “startled” at how fast the fire spread.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I heard sirens, looked up from my house and saw people running out of the building, some of them carrying keepsakes and pictures. The Fire Department got here really quickly, though. They did an amazing job. I am grateful to live in a city with a Fire Department of this caliber. This could have been much worse.”
Twenty-two firefighters fought the blaze with two fire engines and one ladder truck.