LEWISTON — The governor’s brother is believed to be one of the residents who escaped Monday’s fire at 172 Bates St.
Adriana Garcia, who managed the building and has lived there for the past eight years, said she alerted Richard LePage and his wife, Alicia, to the fire and helped the couple downstairs and out of the building. She said she has been a friend of the couple and knows Richard LePage as Gov. Paul LePage’s brother.
The couple could not be reached for comment. The governor’s office could not confirm the relationship.
The governor grew up in Lewiston and has more than a dozen siblings.
On Monday afternoon, Garcia came home from a doctor’s appointment, took a pill to relieve the pain in her broken foot, and promptly fell asleep.
She woke a few hours later to the smell of smoke and the crackling of burning wood.
Garcia, 58, lived on the second floor of 172 Bates St. Black smoke was starting to drift into her bedroom. Out the window, Garcia saw flames. Burned wood floated past, carried on the wind.
She jumped out of bed so fast and with such force that her 2-week-old cast cracked. Hobbling through her apartment, she didn’t grab her crutches, shoes or any belongings. Her building was burning down around her; Garcia didn’t have time for stuff.
“My first instinct is the people across the hall from me,” she said.
Garcia had always tried to look out for Richard and Alicia LePage. He has medical problems and she is blind, Garci said.
When Garcia swung open their unlocked door, she found Alicia asleep on the recliner and Richard asleep in the bedroom, both unaware of the flames that were consuming their building.
“I started hollering, ‘Alicia, please, honey, please, we’ve got to get out! We’ve got to get out! We’re on fire!'” Garcia said.
She grabbed her friends and pulled them with her down the stairs. She could feel the heat of the fire as they fled.
“At the same time, I’m hollering, ‘I need some help!'” Garcia said. “But nobody could hear me because everybody was already out.”
Once the trio got outside, neighbors and onlookers ran over to help. Windows cracked and broke. Thick smoke billowed around them. Garcia turned and saw her building in flames. She and the LePages were, she believes, the last ones out.
In front of the burning building, Garcia made the sign of the cross.
“I said, ‘Thank you, God, for waking me up just in time and helping me to get these people out. And I’m alive,'” she said.
Days later, Garcia is being hailed as a hero. She doesn’t see her actions that way.
“God’s always holding my hand, one way or another,” she said. “I got two people that mean a lot to me out [of the building]. I don’t think of myself as a hero. I think of myself as one of God’s soldiers.”
Garcia’s husband, a roofer, is on a job in Old Town. He came home for a day to be with her after the fire, but she urged him to go back to work. They lost their home and all of their belongings, and they can’t afford to lose a paycheck, too, she said.
They were not insured.
Garcia got her cracked cast fixed and is staying with a relative of Alicia LePage but knows she can’t stay there forever.
“I’m trying to get things situated,” Garcia said. “Like, right now, I just came back from the Department of [Health and] Human Services. People keep telling me, ‘Go here, go there,'” she said. “By the time I’m done I’m so, so tired, in so much pain. But I’ve been doing what I have to do.”
She’s hoping to find a one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of her doctors at Central Maine Medical Center.
Garcia gets upset sometimes, especially when she thinks of the iPod Touch her son had sent her for Mother’s Day. Her children live in Texas and she hasn’t seen them in four years. The iPod would have allowed them to video chat, but it’s gone.
“I didn’t even get to talk to him or use it,” she said, crying.
But Garcia reminds herself that material things can be replaced. She and her husband can find another home.
She and her friends are OK.
“I’ll start over again,” she said. “I’m alive.”