BATH, Maine — A dryer vent clogged with lint triggered a fire Monday night that has left the occupants of three apartments in Bath without a home.
Bath Fire Chief Steve Hinds said one of the occupants, who called 911 before evacuating his neighbors from the building, “did everything right” and likely minimized the damage to more apartments and possibly prevented injuries.
The lone resident at 20D Windjammer Way noticed flames out his back window after hearing snapping and crackling noises at about 11:30 p.m. Monday, said Hinds. By the time fire crews arrived, the flames had reached the building’s roof structure. The man’s apartment was gutted by flames.
“There’s not much left of that unit inside,” said Hinds. “There’s nothing to salvage there. There was fire everywhere.”
The scene of the fire is part of a large housing development called Maritime Apartments.
There was also heavy damage to the adjoining apartments at 20C and 20E Windjammer Way, particularly on the second story and attic spaces. Hinds said it’s possible that the residents of 20A and 20B Windjammer Way will be able to return to their homes once electricity to those units is separated from the rest and turned back on.
Hinds said the fire started in a dryer vent in a laundry and utility room that is shared by the residents of the five-unit apartment block. Compounding the fire was a propane grill outside. The relief valve on the grill’s tank let go because of the intense heat and shot flames against the building.
“It was burning like a blowtorch,” said Hinds.
Hinds said crews from Bath, West Bath and Brunswick attacked the fire at multiple points. Because the apartment block is perpendicular to the road, a ladder truck could not park close enough so firefighters erected ladders on the exterior of the building so they could breach the roof and douse the flames there. Firefighters also had to the cut through the floor of the unit that was destroyed so they could extinguish the flames in a crawl space beneath the building.
It took a few hours to stop the fire and Hinds said the last firefighters didn’t leave the scene until after 6 a.m. Tuesday. The American Red Cross in Topsham is working to provide shelter to displaced residents.
According to information posted by the American Red Cross on its Facebook site, volunteers are working with 13 people who are affected by the fire, including six children. Among the services being offered are temporary housing, food, clothing and emotional support. Those services are offered free of charge to the victims, which is made possible by donations from community members. Financial contributions for these families or the overall mission of the Red Cross can be sent to the Mid Coast Chapter at 16 Community Way, Topsham 04086, or by calling 729-6779.
Hinds said the state fire marshal’s office was on the scene through most of the night.
This was at least the second fire in the same apartment block. In June of 2010, according to Hinds, a man died in a fire at 20A Windjammer Way, which was caused by a mix of a cigarette and an oxygen respiration machine.
Dennis Atwood, who lives in a nearby apartment block, said most of the surrounding residents were woken by the fire.
“Everyone was up. You couldn’t help that,” he said as he surveyed his neighbors’ ruined homes and shoveled snow from his walkway. “It was an awful thing to wake up to.”