Augusta structure fire leaves 14 people homeless

Posted Jan. 10, 2013, at 7:06 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — An early afternoon fire Augusta firefighters say was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials caused massive damage to a six-unit apartment building and displaced all 14 residents on Thursday.

Augusta Fire Department Deputy Chief Dave Groder said the fire, which was reported around noon Thursday, occurred at 55 Sewall St. and began on a second-floor deck of the three-story apartment building.

High winds made fighting the fire especially challenging as it spread very quickly.

“It went right up into the third floor deck as well. Today’s high winds took it and pushed it quickly throughout the second and third floors,” said Groder. “It was noticed and reported quickly, and it’s less than half a mile from the station, but the winds really helped it spread quickly.”

Units and personnel responded to the call from Augusta, Winthrop, Chelsea, Gardiner and Togus while fire units from Hallowell provided station coverage in Augusta during the fire.

“We probably had about 60 firefighters on scene with two aerial trucks, three pumpers and several engines,” Groder said. “We just cleared our last unit from the scene around 5:30 [p.m.]”

Groder said there were no injuries to any of the occupants or firefighters and even two cats that were inside the building were rescued. He said one weather-related positive was the absence of the sub-freezing conditions from the past two weeks.

“We had no problems with lines or equipment freezing up,” he said “As far as the building, all four walls and the roof are still intact. The first floor has water damage and the second and third have quite a bit of fire damage.”

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