On Saturday, Sept. 21, a fire in Old Town’s city center, between Main and Water Street, resulted in significant damage to a number of commercial and apartment buildings. Four days later, on Wednesday, Sept. 25, another fire began in the five-unit apartment complex at 1144 Stillwater Avenue. No one was killed or injured in either of the fires.
Saturday’s fire started at 274 Main Street in Old Town’s downtown waterfront area and caused extensive damage before spreading to the adjacent building at 270 Main Street. A police dispatcher claimed to have first been informed about the fire at nearly 10 p.m. on Saturday night, shortly before Old Town fire rescue arrived on the scene. In a subsequent investigation, Maine State fire marshals were able to determine that the fire had begun on the building’s third floor. Because of sustained damage, the marshals were unable to access the fire’s area of origin and were unable to determine its cause.
One of the commercial businesses damaged by the fire, Serenity Salon and Spa, was owned by Helen Mace, a beautician who is currently looking for a location in which to reopen her salon. The nearby Hidden Treasures Boutique, located at 270 Main Street, was entirely ruined. Firefighters from across Penobscot County responded to the blaze, with some coming from as far south as Hermon, staying until nearly 1 a.m., when the fire was finally extinguished. Nearly all of the 270 Main Street apartment building was destroyed during the five-hour inferno. The surrounding buildings and businesses, which were also affected by the blaze, managed to avoid complete destruction.
Both Main Street and Water Street in downtown Old Town were reopened for traffic on Monday, Sept. 23. The American Red Cross is currently working to assist 11 of the displaced individuals in their search for temporary housing while maintaining that this number could still rise.
Old Town’s second fire of the week began on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. and continued into the early afternoon. Wednesday’s fire left another 11 people, two of them children, without homes. The Maine State fire marshals determined that the cause was the careless use of a candle.
Although the building’s apartments, especially those on the third floor, suffered serious damage, officials believe that they can be refurbished to their previous condition in the coming weeks.
Old Town’s City Council held a ‘Rapid Response’ meeting Friday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:00, during which representatives from the State’s Department of Labor and Eastern Maine Development Corporation explained to the affected people what type of assistance they would be eligible to receive to aid in their search for a job or application for unemployment benefits.
As Orono’s northern neighbor, the city of Old Town is not only a beneficiary of students’ commercial activity, but also a place in which many University of Maine students and faculty reside. However, neither Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Robert Dana, nor its senior director of public relations, Margaret Nagle, were aware of any UMaine students having been displaced by either fire.
Those interested in helping residents affected by the two fires can do so online at www.old-town.org, by either supporting local businesses or donating directly to a local recovery fund.