May 3, 2013

Fire hits upper floors of Waterville Main Street building

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Fire tore through the upper floors of a downtown building Friday, damaging two shops on the first floor and leaving three apartment tenants homeless.

click image to enlarge

A building in downtown Waterville burns Friday afternoon. The fire on the upper floors of the Main Street building between Silver and Spring streets was reported around 4 p.m.

Photo by Robert Koenig

click image to enlarge

A building in downtown Waterville burns Friday afternoon. The fire on the upper floors of the Main Street building, between Silver and Spring streets, was reported around 4 p.m.

Photo by Robert Koenig

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Firefighters from four departments raced to the scene, where flames were shooting out of third- and fourth-floor windows and fire was ravaging wooden porches and fire escapes on the back of the building.

The four-story brick building on lower Main Street houses the tattoo shop INK-4-LIFE as well as Top Dog Wireless.

INK-4-LIFE owners Bill and Mona Juliano, both 38, said they think the fire started on a third-floor porch at the rear of the building, where a tenant was cooking on a grill.

“Her propane tank blew up,” Bill Juliano said. “It caught fire somehow,” Mona Juliano added.

Fire Chief David LaFountain did not confirm that report, but he said all aspects were being investigated and the State Fire Marshal’s Office was on the scene, helping to determine the cause of the fire.

John Weeks owns the building, which bears a brick saying it was built in 1924. Travis Corson, the building’s fourth-floor tenant, was standing across Main Street, tears streaming down his cheeks as he watched the building burn. Friends were giving him hugs.

“All my dad’s pictures, my grandfather’s stuff is gone,” he said. “All my clothes. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

It was around 4 p.m. when firefighters, police and spectators converged on downtown, black smoke rolling out of windows on the burning building’s upper floors.

More than 30 firefighters from Waterville, Winslow, Oakland and Fairfield fought the blaze from the roof, from inside the building, on the ground and perched atop ladder trucks all around the building, the back of which faces Spring Street Extension.

They even climbed to the fourth floor of a building across the alley that houses Silver Street Tavern and put a hose through a window to shoot water toward the burning building.

Earlier, fire had leapt across the alley and burned some wooden window frames on the Silver Street building, which is owned by Charlie Giguere, according to LaFountain.

Police closed Main, Temple and Silver streets to traffic and firefighters laid hose down all streets surrounding the fire. Authorities evacuated businesses along Silver Street, including the Silver Street Tavern, The Last Unicorn restaurant and Cancun Mexican Restaurant. Power was shut off to those buildings.

There were no reports of injuries.

The building is just north of, and connected to, the former Waterville Hardware building, which was the site of a fire in the 1980s and now is unoccupied and owned by Angelo Shanos.

Shanos, who has done renovations to the building, stood on the sidewalk, watching as firefighters worked. He said a thick brick wall separates his building from the one that was burning, so he did not think his building was damaged.

Mayor Karen Heck rode her bicycle downtown after hearing about the fire. She said she was relieved that nobody was hurt.

“I really appreciate the firefighters’ ability to contain it to one building,” she said. “I’m grateful that they got here so quickly.”

She was talking to police Chief Joseph Massey, whose entire crew was downtown. The fire started when police were changing shifts, and they were all able to respond.

Police Detective David Caron was on scene, talking to people in the street. Fire Lt. Scott Holst said firefighters did a good job stopping the fire from spreading to other buildings.

“It was scary at first, though, because this is downtown and everything is so close,” he said.

Firefighters emerging from the building, hot and covered with soot and fire debris, sat down on curbs along the street and drank water from bottles before returning to the building.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Firefighters spray water on a building on fire in downtown Waterville on Friday afternoon. The block is between Spring and Silver streets.

Jim Evans / Morning Sentinel

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Main Street in Waterville is closed as firefighters work in an alley to extinguish fires in the facing building Friday afternoon.

Jim Evans / Morning Sentinel

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Crowds gather on Main Street in downtown Waterville on Friday afternoon as a building burns between Spring and Silver streets.

Jim Evans / Morning Sentinel

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Waterville firefighters move in close to the top floors where flames were seen earlier Friday.

Jim Evans / Morning Sentinel

  


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