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Newspaper employee recalls spotting Bangor fire

Kate Collins | BDN
Kate Collins | BDN
Bangor firefighters clean up at around 8 a.m. after extinguishing a fire at 389 Center Street in Bangor on Saturday, June 25, 2011. The flames broke out in the multi-unit building in the early morning hours.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Getting up early to make sure customers get their newspaper is not that exciting, except when you are the first to spot an apartment building on fire.

Joe Seeley, a Bangor Daily News circulation district manager, said he was driving down Center Street at around 6 a.m. Saturday when he saw smoke coming from the top of 389 Center St.

He stopped his vehicle and put it into reverse, thinking the smoke may be coming from a chimney, but quickly realized the multi-unit apartment was on fire.

“I just saw flames,” Seeley said Monday, recalling the scene. “I called 911 and I went up to the building” to get the address.

While at the door, “I saw a man coming down,” he said. “I was still on the phone with 911. I said, ‘The house is on fire’ and ‘We’ve got to get everyone out of here.’”

The resident “heard a bang and he was coming down to check it out,” Seeley said. The two men went door-to-door to get the other residents out of the burning structure.

Seeley said he did what anyone would have done in the same situation.

Some local news media outlets reported that it was a newspaper delivery person who stopped to help, and some of Seeley’s family members have been joking around with him that he was demoted.

“They called me a paperboy,” he said.

As a circulation district manager Seeley oversees about 60 newspaper delivery people.

Sgt. Tim York with the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Monday that fire investigators determined that a lightning strike caused the Center Street fire.

In an unrelated case, a fire reported at 10 p.m. Friday in the basement at 188 West Broadway, on the corner of Savage Street, has been deemed accidental, York said.

“It was either an electrical malfunction of a lamp or the lamp was put too close to combustible materials,” he said.

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