BANGOR, Maine — Cigarette butts improperly discarded outside a Fourth Street apartment building were cited as the apparent cause of a fire Monday afternoon that forced nearly a dozen tenants who were home at the time to evacuate temporarily.
About a dozen tenants were home at the time and all of them got out safely, Assistant Chief Scott Bostock of the Bangor Fire Department said at the scene. He said no one was injured in connection with the fire, which began shortly before 4 p.m. at 23-25 Fourth St.
Because of Monday afternoon’s wind and near freezing temperatures, city firefighters and emergency medical personnel handed out blankets to tenants who had to leave the building with just the clothes on their backs, many of them without shoes or coats on.
Meanwhile, city police officers who came to the scene offered to let tenants warm up in their police vehicles.
Dreama Dandy was among the people forced to vacate the building.
“We’ve got four cats up there,” she said while climbing into a running Bangor Police Department SUV for warmth. “We couldn’t get them out. They told us we have to leave.”
Clinton Edwards, who lives with Dandy, also was worried about the cats.
“I don’t care if we lose everything else — I just don’t want to lose the cats,” he said, adding that he and Dandy weren’t able to take the cats outside with them because they had lent their cat carriers to a friend.
Bangor Assistant Fire Chief Tom Higgins later said all five of the cats that lived in the building survived.
Fire department personnel looked the cats over and provided oxygen to some of them, but for the most part, the felines perked right up once they got out into the fresh air, Higgins said. All were reunited with their owners.
The fire damaged a wall on the back side of the building, where Bostock said firefighters found a pile of cigarette butts about 2 feet in diameter.
Bostock said the butts weren’t scattered throughout the yard but rather appear to have been dumped in a pile.
Higgins said the fire was reported by a tenant who smelled smoke and called for help. Fire crews “did a great job stopping it.”
They arrived quickly and hit the burning parts of the building with three lines, containing the fire to a back wall before it made its way to other parts of the building, which public records indicate was built in the 1880s.
Higgins said the tenants of two of the building’s eight apartments were displaced because of the fire but that everyone else was allowed to return to their homes.
The Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting the displaced tenants, he said.
The building is owned by Kenneth Nelson. It wasn’t immediately clear whether it was insured.