MADAWASKA, Maine — Residents are stepping up to help the seven occupants of the historical 11th Avenue apartment building destroyed by fire last week.
Three tenants, the building’s owners and their two children, plus to pet cats were left homeless by the blaze which is believed to have started behind a third floor wall and be electrical in origin, according to Peter Parent, Madawaska’s interim fire chief.
The building, currently owned by Dr. Nelson and Rachel Henry, was insured.
NorState Federal Credit Union, based in Madawaska, is taking the lead on relief efforts from securing new housing for displaced residents to raising much needed monetary donations.
Due to some foreclosure measures, the credit union now controls several empty apartments in Madawaska, according to Denise Duperre-Cote, NorState director of marketing. Those apartments were put at the immediate disposal of the fire victims.
“We contacted the displaced victims right off,” Duperre-Cote said. “Those apartments are clean, have appliances like refrigerators and stoves, and were ready for people to move in.”
In addition, NorState offered the apartments rent-free for the first month.
“We can’t save the memories, or the photos or birth certificates that were lost in the fire,” Duperre-Cote said. “But at least we can help them get back on their feet and start putting their lives back together.”
NorState has also taken the lead in raising monetary donations and kicked off the Madawaska Fire Victims Fund with a $500 contribution.
That fund grew by more than $900 Thursday night when residents “passed the hat” at the weekly music in the park concert in town, Duperre-Cote said.
Between 60 and 70 firefighters from the Madawaska and Edmundston, New Brunswick, fire departments fought the blaze on Tuesday in temperatures in the upper 80s.
Crews pumped Thousands of gallons of water on the adjacent buildings — one of which was just four feet away — and firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the one structure.
A payloader was eventually brought in that same day to tear the building down as firefighters continued to hose down what was left of the still-burning structure.
One firefighter did suffer heat exhaustion at the scene and was taken by ambulance to Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent where he was treated and released.
As with the March fire in Fort Kent which displaced close to a dozen tenants, community members are looking for ways to help, Duperre-Cote said.
“It’s natural for us to volunteer and help within our community,” she said. “We all ask, ‘what can we do?’”
Donations are being accepted at any of NorState’s branches in Madawaska, Fort Kent, Eagle Lake, Van Buren, Ashland or Presque Isle.
Individuals may also mail checks to NorState Federal Credit Union, 78 Fox Street, Madawaska 04756, payable to the credit union and indicated on the check it is for the Madawaska Fire Victims Fund.
The American Red Cross is also accepting donations on behalf of the fire victims.