Twenty-seven people have died in Maine fires so far this year, with the three latest deaths coming early Sunday morning following a fire at a house on Union Street in Bangor.
The 27 fire deaths this year make 2021 the deadliest year for fires in recent memory, according to data from the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The Sunday fire on Union Street was the deadliest blaze in the state since 2016.
There were 25 fire fatalities in 2014, the second deadliest year in recent memory, and 22 fire fatalities in 2018, according to the fire marshal’s office.
The 2021 numbers were current as of Sunday, following the Union Street fire, Shannon Moss, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson, confirmed. Christopher Pickering had been the last Bangor resident to die in a fire before Sunday, after his Essex Street apartment building caught fire in November 2020.
The last time multiple people were killed in a fire was in Winterport in June, when a kitchen stove caught fire and burned down a house with its two occupants still inside. The last fatal fire that killed three or more people was on Bradbury Street in Old Town in 2016, when a house fire killed a woman and two children.
The building that most recently burned on Sunday, 194 Union Street, had been boarded up and condemned by the city of Bangor. One neighbor said he had observed seven or eight people living in the house in the past week.
Bangor police said two other people were taken to the hospital after they responded to the Union Street home around 5 a.m. Sunday morning. The identities of the victims have not yet been released.
The Union Street fire came four years after a fire at another condemned Bangor property.
In that fire on Nov. 29, 2017, firefighters rescued a homeless man after he had broken into a condemned Essex Street building and started two fires to stay warm, a tactic that is common among unhoused people seeking refuge from colder weather as winter sets in and temperatures drop.