Nick Fitzpatrick has a habit of waking up in the middle of the night for snacks. The early morning hours of April 9 were like all the rest.

Nick, a lobsterman, rose from bed and made his way around the apartment on an upper floor of the five-story home on Park Street that he shares with his mother, the Portland gallerist June Fitzpatrick.

Nick knew something was amiss right away. He was a bit groggy from sleep, and wasn’t sure what it was. But something caught his attention.

Soon enough, he realized the house was burning.

He bolted down the stairs, woke his mom, roused the dog and called 911. Out into the street they fled, and watched in horror as the windows exploded from the top floors of the home, debris raining down from above.

Minutes later, the fire department was on the scene, and ever since June Fitzpatrick’s world has been turned into chaos, her life spun upside down.

“The saving grace is that no one got hurt,” June Fitzpatrick, 73, said last week, talking extensively about the fire for the first time. “I am fine. Nick is fine. The dog is fine. We’re very lucky.”

But the house is a mess. Built in 1832, this historic structure had its soul turned into rubble. The top two floors were destroyed, and there is damage throughout.

Fitzpatrick has not received any official word on the cause of the fire. An electrical malfunction is suspected, though the electrical system was updated. “But as someone pointed out, a mouse could chew through the wire,” she said.

The demolition continues, and it will be some time before construction crews begin the long task of repairing this gem of a house.

Fitzpatrick has taken up residence at the Eastland Hotel, but returns home to Park Street daily.

As she talks about her ordeal, she sits at a long dining room table cluttered with stacks of paper, business cards, bills, invoices and notes. She has a spreadsheet in front of her, which she uses to stay on top of the daily tasks that demand her time and attention.

Fortunately, she closed her High Street gallery at the end of 2011, and she turned her Congress Street gallery over to Maine College of Art for its senior thesis exhibition during May. That lucky convergence means that Fitzpatrick has not been distracted by work, and at least for now can dedicate her energy to the fire and her rebuilding plans.

“People have been very concerned,” she says. “They’ve been offering help — very kind and nurturing, but also respectful of my privacy.”

Along with concern for her and her son’s well-being, many people have asked about Fitzpatrick’s extensive collection of art. Over the 32 years that she has lived at Park Street, Fitzpatrick amassed hundreds of pieces of art for her private collection.

Did it survive? Was it damaged? What was lost?

Because her son occupied the top two floors of the house, Fitzpatrick hung most of her art on the lower floors, and nearly all of it survived.

“I lost two or three Ed Gamble drawings, which I loved and am distressed about, and a Fred Lynch poster from years and years ago for a show at USM. It was only a poster, but I was so sad to lose that. It’s silly the things that are close to you. But most of the art was undamaged. Most of the art was on the first two floors, which was pretty amazing,” she said.

The walls were damaged — water ran down from top to bottom — but the fire department did a fabulous job right away to ensure her vast collection of antique furniture was moved to safety in the middle of the rooms, and then covered with tarps to protect it from water. First thing the next morning, cleaning and moving crews were on hand to pack her belongings and transport them safely to storage. “My house is very dear to me, and I was seeing my life go out the front door,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was clinging to the art, and wanted to wrap it myself, which I did.”

She could not be more impressed with the response of the fire department. “If you are going to have a fire, have it in Portland,” she quipped. And so far, she has had nothing but cooperation from her insurance company. All the cleaning and demolition crews have been terrific, and she has found a contractor that she likes and trusts to do the work.

Fitzpatrick has not lost her humor or wit. She understands she is lucky, all things considered, and grateful that no one was injured. A neighbor’s house also was damaged, which distresses her.

But in the big picture, she came out of the fire OK. It could have been much worse and perhaps even tragic if not for her son’s snacking habit.

“You can either fall apart or get on with it,” she said. “Those are your choices. But falling apart isn’t a choice for me, so I am getting on with it,” she said. “I’m redesigning the space and am going to make it lovely.”

And all those painting and home decoration projects that she has had in mind for years but postponed because of the inconvenience they would cause now will happen.

There’s always a bright side, she said.

Under the best-case scenario, she is looking at a rebuilding project of at least six months.

She plans to get back to work at her Congress Street gallery very soon, and for now is working from what is left of her home, amid the rubble and the din of demolition upstairs. She has a major gallery project coming up in July focusing on children’s advocacy that will involve an exhibition that uses art to draw attention to children’s issues. There will be forums, a rally and many side projects.

She is staying busy, and in some ways looks forward to getting back to the gallery so she can wrap her mind around something other than the fire.

“I would have to have been dead to not continue with the gallery,” she said. “And I’m not dead. I’m still kicking.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes