May 5, 2013

Boy arrested in latest Lewiston fire

A 12-year-old is the second to be charged with setting a major fire last week near the city’s downtown – and the number of homeless rises.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

LEWISTON - A 12-year-old Lewiston boy was arrested and charged with arson Saturday in connection with a massive fire Friday night that destroyed nearly 30 apartments and left more than 100 people homeless.

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In the aftermath of a destructive fire that started Friday night, Lewiston police Officer Nick Wiers, center, guides displaced residents away from the scene on Bartlett Street on Saturday morning. Police said later Saturday that a 12-year-old boy had been arrested and charged with arson in connection with the fires that left more than 100 people homeless. Police did not name the boy.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Early Saturday, firefighters train water toward the blazes that broke out in four buildings on Pierce and Bartlett streets in Lewiston. Fire investigators confirmed the fires started in a garage of a condemned property at 116 Pierce St.

Joel Page/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

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The unnamed suspect was the second 12-year-old boy to be accused of setting a major fire near downtown Lewiston last week.

The latest arrest came hours after firefighters had finally doused the flames from a fire that started late Friday night in the garage of a condemned home and then spread to that house and three apartment buildings on Pierce and Bartlett streets.

Fire officials said 29 apartments were destroyed, more than 100 people were displaced and damage would run to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On Monday, another arson fire destroyed three buildings on Blake, Bates and Pine streets, just a few blocks from the site of Friday night's fires.

On Thursday, police arrested 12-year-old Brody Covey and charged him with three counts of arson.

Covey's name was released in court documents because of the seriousness of the charges he faces. He is being held in a juvenile detention facility and is expected to make a court appearance early this week.

Fire officials estimated the damage from Monday's fire at $1 million.

Police did not release the name of the 12-year-old boy they arrested Saturday and charged with four counts of arson. They said they did not consider the fire Friday and the one on Monday to be connected and that Friday's fire was not deemed a copycat crime.

They also said other children might be arrested in coming days in connection with the fire Friday night.

Fire investigators confirmed that the fire started in a garage of a condemned house at 116 Pierce St. Several residents said they saw someone running from that garage and then spotted the first flames there.

Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere said his department would step up patrols to try to prevent more fires. He also urged parents to make sure their children comply with a 10 p.m. weeknight and midnight weekend curfew for juveniles.

SIFTING THROUGH THE RUBBLE

Investigators spent the day Saturday sifting through rubble as they tried to determine the cause of the fire, which began around 10 p.m. Friday.

Jerry Stanisz, a disaster assessor with the American Red Cross, said 104 people were displaced by the fire, and none of the 29 apartments that burned or was damaged by water was habitable.

Many of the residents spent the night at a temporary shelter at Lewiston High School. Stanisz said the shelter would operate again on Saturday night.

Fire officials had to shoo residents of the buildings away on Saturday morning. Many had returned to the scene to try to retrieve the belongings they had left behind Friday night.

Many of the displaced residents were Somali immigrants, including Kheyro Jama, who lived in a building next to the garage where the fire is believed to have started.

On Saturday morning, she stood outside in clothes borrowed from her sister, wondering if any of her belongings could be retrieved, including her car keys.

"Even my graduation gown is in there," said Jama, a senior who will be getting her bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine commencement next Saturday.

Jama said she went outside around 9:45 p.m. Friday and the neighborhood seemed quiet. Shortly after, she heard her 2-year-old son coughing in the bedroom. She saw the smoke and flames and grabbed her two children -- including a 1-year-old daughter -- and ran outside.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Firefighters confer at the scene of a Lewiston fire that destroyed 29 aparments early Saturday.

Joel Page/Staff Photographer

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Lewiston police Officer Nick Wiers keeps displaced residents away from the scene of a fire Saturday. Many of the newly homeless people were members of Lewiston’s Somali community.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Buildings stand in the aftermath of a massive fire at Bartlett and Pierce streets in Lewiston. Firefighters poured so much water onto the roofs of both buildings on Pierce Street that torrents of water cascaded out windows and doors and into the streets.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Three of the structures were owned by Phyllis St. Laurent, who said she didn't know who owned the condemned building.

Joel Page/Staff Photographer

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Fire investigators on Saturday morning inspect the rubble at what is believed to be the fire’s origin – the garage of a condemned building – for clues about its origin.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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A fire investigator uses a dog to help find clues to a fire on Bartlett and Pierce Streets in Lewiston on Saturday morning.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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A Lewiston firefighter guides displaced residents away from the scene of a fire on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on Saturday morning.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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The fire broke out late Friday night and kept firefighters at work for hours into Saturday morning.

Joel Page / Staff Photographer

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At least 10 communities quickly sent fire crews to aid Lewiston firefighters in the blazes that broke out Friday night.

Joel Page / Staff Photographer

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Firefighters battle a multi-structure blaze in downtown Lewiston in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Tom Bell / Staff Photographer

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Nehemiah Chase of the Lisbon Falls Fire Department monitors ladder operations.

Tom Bell / Staff Photographer

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Firefighters battle a multi-structure blaze in downtown Lewiston in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Tom Bell / Staff Photographer

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The scene Friday night was surreal as two buildings on Pierce Street and two more on Bartlett Street were ablaze. Smoke could be seen from miles away, and the night was lit in orange and red.

Joel Page/Staff Photographer

  


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