A blaze at a multi-story apartment building in Madawaska. Credit: Courtesy of Alison Remalia

A multi-story apartment complex at 143 School Ave. in Madawaska caught fire Monday afternoon, and dozens of firefighters from Fort Kent, Grand Isle and Madawaska worked to extinguish the blaze.

All 11 tenants escaped the building safely, though several animals died, according to Alison Remalia, a friend of the building manager who helped coordinate with residents outside. No firefighters or emergency responders were injured.

“When we arrived there it was pretty much fully engulfed on that second and third floor,” Madawaska fire chief Jim Soucy said. “We tried to go in to see if we could extinguish some of it, and it was overwhelming.”

Sometime after 4 p.m., an excavator was used to begin demolishing the structure to prevent the spread of the flames.

Smoke pouring out of second-story windows and from under the eaves quickly filled Madawaska’s streets, blowing several blocks north to Main Street making the air hazy and noxious.

Residents scrambled to gather what they could as they left — one man reported losing all of his medication, another could only save one of his several pets from the building, Remalia said. The structure was a total loss, she said.

As of 7 p.m., the fire was completely extinguished. Soucy warned people to not go near the wreckage of the building, which he said was very dangerous.

The Red Cross provided housing accommodations for all tenants at the Gateway Motel in town.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, and Soucy said the department will continue to investigate in the coming days.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the machine used to demolish the building.

Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.