ORONO, Maine — When employees of the Curtis Law Firm smelled and then saw smoke Friday morning and heard fire alarms going off inside the apartments located below the firm they called the Fire Department for help, said Lt. Bryan Hardison.
“We had a report of smoke in the building at the law office,” he said. “Downstairs in the back of the building there are three downstairs apartments. When we got there, there was fire in the ceiling” of the apartments.
Firefighters from Veazie, Old Town and Bangor were called to lend Orono crews a hand, because “the whole downtown block is connected,” Hardison said. “There is a common basement between the building and the one next door.”
The smoke detectors saved the block, he said.
“We caught it early,” Hardison said. “Ten or 15 minutes later and it would have been a whole different situation.”
The law office at 34 Main St. was evacuated and two windows on the back of the building were knocked out to provide ventilation, he said. The offices have minor smoke damage, but otherwise are intact, Ted Curtis, owner of the law firm, said Friday afternoon.
“There wasn’t any fire damage, so all the files are in fine shape,” he said. “I was meeting with clients this afternoon and we’ll be open for business again Monday morning.”
The firm’s computers are being replaced as a precautionary measure, he said.
“The Fire Department was here fast,” Curtis said. “There was great mutual-aid support. They were fast, efficient and came with all the right smoke breathing equipment.”
Firefighters aggressively fought the blaze while a good number of spectators stood and watched.
“We contained the fire to the downstairs apartments,” Hardison said. “They’re total losses. They’re gutted. We had to pull all the walls and ceiling down” while searching for fire.
The three apartment tenants were not at home at the time of the fire. Two work at downtown businesses and one was a University of Maine student, Curtis said.
“There wasn’t anybody in the building besides me and my staff,” he said. “I’ve been making arrangements to make sure they [the apartment tenants] have a place to stay,”
An electric wire running along a beam between two of the apartments apparently is where the fire began, the lieutenant said.
“It looks like it was pinched,” he said.
Route 2 through downtown Orono was closed while firefighters dealt with the blaze, and reopened around 10:30 a.m. Fire crews returned to their stations around noontime.