MILLINOCKET, Maine – A malfunctioning space heater sparked a fire Wednesday that destroyed most of a second-floor apartment on Katahdin Avenue, leaving three people homeless and two of three cats missing.
The fire, reported at about 2:45 p.m., did heavy damage to two bedrooms at 236 Katahdin Ave., Apt. B, with water damage occurring on the first floor. Firefighters needed just 10 minutes to knock down most of the flames, Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte said.
“They made a quick knockdown and prevented further spread of the fire,” Turcotte said Wednesday.
Shane Rushlow was in his bedroom when he saw the space heater start to short out. The 20-year-old said he ran downstairs to tell his father, Jeff Rushlow, what happened. The Rushlows and Jeff’s girlfriend, who also lives there, immediately ran out of the building.
“It happened quick, real quick,” Jeff Rushlow said. “I ran upstairs to see how bad it was, but it was so bad I couldn’t even get in the door.”
A downstairs neighbor in the two-story apartment building, Evan McLaughlin, called 911. When firefighters arrived several minutes later, they saw smoke pouring from the second-story window, Turcotte said. Firefighters had an interior attack team quell the flames, which by then had spread into an adjacent bedroom, Turcotte said.
The space heater was on a table near a bed and shorted out, sparking a mattress fire that quickly spread into the two rooms, Turcotte said.
No injuries were reported.
Jeff Rushlow credited his son’s alertness with preventing more damage to the apartment, which the family rents, but said Shane Rushlow lost almost all of his clothes and many other belongings in the blaze.
“Everything is gone,” Shane Rushlow said. “That’s all I can say right now.”
Jeff Rushlow salvaged a television and several other items from the fire, however. A town church paid for his family to be put up for the night at a local hotel, and the American Red Cross will pay for the family’s housing for several more days, Turcotte said.
The Rushlows are also concerned for their cats, Whitey, Tank and Kritten. The Rushlows and Turcotte said they think the cats were rescued or escaped the flames, but the Rushlows said two are missing.
McLaughlin said he would watch for the cats and asked that anyone who finds them return them to him.