July 2, 2012

Officials: Congress Street fire caused by sparklers, toaster

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — An apartment fire that closed parts of Congress Street and Cumberland Avenue and displaced at least three families earlier today was caused when two kids tried to light fireworks in a bedroom using a toaster, according to Portland Acting Fire Chief Stephen Smith.

click image to enlarge

The fire department battles a fire at 229 Congress Street and 8 Montgomery Street in Portland on Monday, July 2, 2012.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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A Portland firefighter lowers a basket closer to the roof of a fire on Montgomery Street in Portland on Monday, July 2, 2012.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The kids had seen their mother light cigarettes using the toaster, so they tried to light their sparklers using the same method, Smith said.

Sparklers are hand-held fireworks that burn slowly and emit colored flames. They are legal in Portland, but the National Council of Fireworks Safety says only children 12 years old and up should handle them.

The blaze began around 11:40 a.m. when the kids accidently set the mattress on fire, and the fire spread to the rest of the apartment.

Congress Street was closed for several hours between Smith Street and Washington Avenue while firefighters battled the blaze in the upper stories of the 24-unit building at 229 Congress and 8 Montgomery Street.

Daralyn Albert lives in the apartment with her 3- and 4-year-old sons, according to Daralyn's mother, Eleanor.

Albert declined an interview at the scene.

"Everybody got out safe. Everybody in the whole building," Eleanor said. "Thank God."

The apartment building is located across from Eastern Cemetery near the base of Munjoy Hill. Firefighters from multiple stations responded to the blaze.

City spokewoman Nicole Clegg said there were no civilian injuries.

Deputy Fire Chief David Jackson said at least three families will be displaced because of the fire. Chief Smith said nine people in total will be displaced, and the fire damaged seven apartment units.

Shortly before 1 p.m., Jackson said that the fire had been extinguished. Congress Street and Cumberland re-opened around 2 p.m.

According to Clegg, this was the second Portland fire involving fireworks in three days. At 3:30 PM Saturday, the fire department responded to a fire in a dumpster located near Hall School. That fire was caused by the use of illegal fireworks, she said in a Monday afternoon press release.

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