An Orland firefighter uses an axe to smash the glass out of a window at 65 Oak Street in Ellsworth after the multi-unit apartment building caught fire on Thursday, March 28, 2019. Fire officials shut down Oak Street, where Route 1A passes through Ellsworth, to make it easier to find the blaze. Credit: Bill Trotter

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A fire Thursday afternoon at a multi-unit apartment building near downtown caused significant damage to the building and resulted in a primary road being closed to traffic for several hours.

At least half a dozen surrounding towns sent firefighters to fight the blaze, which was reported at around 3 p.m. The first firefighters on the scene found flames coming through a basement window of 65 Oak St., and the fire quickly spread up through the walls to the first and second floors, according to Ellsworth Fire Chief Richard Tupper.

“We do not know what caused the fire at this point,” Tupper said. “We certainly will have the State Fire Marshal’s Office here to investigate. A lot of the building was saved, so hopefully we can figure out what the cause is.”

Credit: Bill Trotter

All of the building’s tenants were able to get out, and no injuries were reported as a result of the fire, he said. The local Red Cross was at the scene to assist tenants displaced by the blaze.

Oak Street, where Route 1A connects with routes 1 and 3 near downtown, was closed to traffic for several hours as fire trucks and hoses clogged the road. All traffic between downtown Ellsworth and the Mill Mall area of Ellsworth, on the road to Bangor, was diverted to State Street.

Credit: Bill Trotter

To fight the fire, firefighters cut through the roof and smashed windows to get at the flames and vent the building. A crowd of onlookers gathered on Oak Street and in neighboring yards to watch as flames licked up the exterior siding. Heavy smoke poured out from multiple windows as strong winds whipped up the blaze.

Tupper said Ellsworth initially had “a very small crew” respond to the fire and had to wait for mutual aid from surrounding towns before it had enough manpower to attack the blaze. He said windy conditions also were a factor.

“By the time they got here we were a little bit behind the ball,” he said.

Bill Trotter

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....