‘I was about 20 seconds away from death’: Residents recall escaping fire at historic Portland home

Joe, who would not give his last name, stands outside the 19th century Irving Street building in Portland where he lived in a second floor apartment. A Sunday night blaze gutted the structure and displaced seven residents, according to one man who lived there.
Joe, who would not give his last name, stands outside the 19th century Irving Street building in Portland where he lived in a second floor apartment. A Sunday night blaze gutted the structure and displaced seven residents, according to one man who lived there.
Posted Jan. 20, 2014, at 1:50 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 20, 2014, at 9:34 p.m.
This 84 Irving St. home in Portland, where as many as seven people lived in rented rooms and apartments, was severely damaged by fire Sunday night. All the residents escaped the building, according to one man who lived there, but the landlord's cat has not been found.
This 84 Irving St. home in Portland, where as many as seven people lived in rented rooms and apartments, was severely damaged by fire Sunday night. All the residents escaped the building, according to one man who lived there, but the landlord's cat has not been found.

View Portland, Me. in a larger map

PORTLAND, Maine — Cody Moores said he woke up Sunday at around 9:30 p.m. to the smell of smoke and the sounds of a smoke alarm and screaming.

Moores said he was one of seven residents — including the landlord — living in rented rooms or apartments in a 19th century Portland home at 84 Irving St. when it was gutted by fire Sunday.

All seven people made it out safely, Moores said, but the landlord’s cat has not been seen since the blaze. The 1884 building is owned by Donald Foster, according to the city assessor’s database.

The property, including the land, is valued by the city at $241,800.

“I breathed in a lot of smoke,” Moores said early Monday afternoon outside the building. “I’m still kind of disoriented and a little bit traumatized. I don’t care about my stuff. But I tried to sleep last night and I just kept dreaming about what I saw when I came down those stairs.”

Moores, who lived in a third-floor space at the home, spent Sunday night in a motel room paid for by the Red Cross, as did other residents of the building.

He said he hurried down the stairs to the porch door shared as the main entrance and exit to the home.

“The entire door, the whole wall was engulfed in flames,” Moores recalled. “I almost ran right into it.”

Moores said he “was about 20 seconds away from death” when he heard other residents shouting from outside that the front door, which had previously been blocked by boxes and other items, was available as an alternative escape route.

Joe, who lived above the building’s garage and did not give his last name Monday at the scene, said he came outside before the flames consumed the porch door, and went around to kick the front door in.

Joe said he first saw smoke billowing up into his bedroom through the mopboards on the floor.

“I just screamed and yelled,” he said. “I tried to go back up to get [Foster] through the front door, but there was too much smoke.”

The landlord and others heard his screaming and found pathways out, Moores said. Another of the residents was well-known Portland musician Frank Hopkins, whose garage studio was destroyed in the incident.

“I am still the luckiest man in the world, for I have the best gal in the whole world safe and sound by my side,” wrote Hopkins in a Facebook post, in part, early Monday morning. “I have places to stay and the best friends in the world, too. And that, folks, is better than any piece of gear or possession you could think of.”

Terry Valente, who now lives on nearby Ocean Avenue, came to the scene of the blaze early Monday afternoon to “say ‘goodbye’ one last time” to the building where she said she grew up.

“It’s very sad,” said Valente, who remembered the “beautiful darkwood” interior of the home where she and her cousin lived with her grandmother years ago. “We used to play in the streets here — Red Rover and all kinds of things.”

Moores said he suspected the cause of the blaze was electrical, although the Portland Fire Department has not yet released an official cause.

 

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business

Similar Articles

More in Portland