January 30, 2013

Penobscot Street fire started in fourth floor bedroom, says fire marshal

No cause has been determined yet in fire that displaced 13 people

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- A fire Tuesday afternoon that ruined a four-unit apartment building and left 13 people homeless started on in a bedroom on the fourth floor, investigators have determined.

click image to enlarge

The fire at 1 Penobscot St. on Thursday damaged the four-unit building and left 13 people homeless

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

They still don't know what sparked the flames, Sgt. Ken Grimes, of the State Fire Marshal's Office, said Wednesday. Grimes said investigators still were looking into the cause of the fire, which badly damaged the four-story building at 1 Penobscot St.

Grimes said investigators were interviewing people to piece together what happened.

"As far as the cause, we're still working on that," Grimes said.

One woman questioned Tuesday afternoon is believed to have lived in the fourth-floor apartment where the fire originated, according to Deputy Chief Jared Mills of the Augusta Police Department. The woman, who could be seen sitting in a police cruiser at the fire scene Tuesday, was released later to her family, Mills said.

Mills said no charges had been filed.

The American Red Cross is assisting the displaced residents, which include children, with temporary housing and other essentials.

Firefighters rescued two dogs from the building, including a puppy. At least two cats were unaccounted for, and it was unclear whether they had escaped from the building or were still inside.

The fire caused extensive damage to the third and fourth floors and destroyed at least half of the roof. City records show the building was built in 1908 and bought in 2004 by Randall Briggs of Mariottsville, Md. It is operated as 1 Penobscot St. LLC and property manager Corinna Miller said the building is insured.

The fire was reported at 12:10 p.m. Flames and smoke were pouring out of a fourth-floor, gable-end window when firefighters arrived.

Flames spread quickly, eventually breaking through the roof and shooting from an upstairs porch. Firefighters from Winthrop, Togus and Gardiner joined Augusta crews, blasting the flames from all sides of the building.

Craig Crosby -- 621-5642

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