Third Lewiston fire: No cause yet, probe continues

12:55 AM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- For the third time in a week, Lewiston firefighters were called out to put out a major fire downtown.

It came on the heels of fires in the same area last Monday and Friday which displaced nearly 200 people. At about 2:45 Monday morning a police officer spotted smoke coming from 116-118 Bartlett Street.

PHOTOS: 3rd fire in Lewiston

911 calls also started coming in around this time. The flames spread to 112-114 Bartlett Street and also the building behind it, 91 Horton St. Firefighters were able to quickly knock down the fire on Horton Street, but 116-118 Bartlett was a stubborn fire, causing both roofs to collapse. By 8-AM the situation was under control.

Police are releasing few details about the investigation into this third fire. They are have not ruled the fire an arson, but they are bringing in authorities from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to aid in the investigation.

"Quite frankly, the hammer's coming down," Mayor Robert MacDonald said. "We're not going to put up with this anymore. "

Mayor MacDonald's words echoed the frustrations many Lewiston residents. The city is taking action to prevent future more fires. Police are stepping up patrols downtown. Code enforcement is encouraging building owners to clean up their properties, by issuing temporary permits that will allow building owners in the affected area to dispose of trash and bulky waste items that may be on their property, and could be used to start another blaze.

The rash of fires has unnerved some people who live in the neighborhood. In light of residents' concerns, police and fire crews in Lewiston say they are working to keep people safe.

In a press conference this afternoon, city officials made it clear that they are will use every resource at their disposal to prevent more fires, and they do not want the people in Lewiston to be scared.

"We are exhausting every opportunity, every resource we have in this city, to make sure that people in the city feel safe first and foremost" Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau said.

Governor Lepage will visit Lewiston Tuesday to assess the damage and meet with city officials.

Meanwhile, Senator Susan Collins has been in touch with FEMA and the department of Housing and Urban Development to determine if there is federal assistance available to help this city get back on its feet after what has been an incredibly draining week on the city's resources.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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