BAR HARBOR, Maine — A man working as a housekeeper at a local inn has been charged with two misdemeanor crimes, but not arson, for starting a fire in a bathroom at the inn on Wednesday, according to local police.
The man, Reginaldo Cerqueria, 51, of Bar Harbor, is accused of starting the fire when he tried to burn frayed threads off a cotton towel in a bathroom of the Balance Rock Inn, Sgt. David Kerns of the Bar Harbor Police Department said Friday. He added Cerqueria has been summoned on charges of reckless conduct and criminal mischief, each of which is a Class D misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Kerns said Cerqueria was part of a crew of inn employees working to get the oceanfront inn ready for its scheduled May 17 opening when he used a cigarette lighter to light the frayed threads on the towel. Police believe Cerqueria meant only to remove the threads, not to set the towel or inn on fire, and so have not charged him with arson, which is a Class A crime punishable by up to 30 years in jail and a $50,000 fine.
The fire and resulting damage was limited to a guest bathroom on the second floor of the inn, which is next to Grant Park and overlooks Frenchman Bay. According to Kerns, the fire is estimated to have caused approximately $5,000 in damage, mostly from smoke and water. The fire is not expected to delay the opening of the inn, an inn employee said Thursday.
According to Kerns, Cerqueria left the bathroom and closed the door after burning the threads, thinking the flame had gone out on its own. A few minutes later, he and another inn employee smelled smoke and began looking for its source at the same time that the inn’s sprinkler system went off. They returned to the bathroom, discovered it was on fire, and used fire extinguishers to help douse the flames, Kerns said.
A local Fire Department official said Thursday that the fire was out by the time firefighters arrived.
Kerns said the state fire marshal’s office helped investigate the incident, which could have been much worse if the inn’s sprinkler system had not been activated. He added he does not know if Cerqueria, who is expected to appear in court in Ellsworth on the charges on July 2, is still employed by the inn.
“The sprinkler system did exactly what it is supposed to do,” Kerns said.