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

(Continued from page 1)

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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

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Another resident, Larry Guy, wonders whether he saw someone who may have set the fire. His apartment is at 128 Pierce St., next door to the garage.

"I was sitting on my porch smoking a cigarette before bed when I heard a loud bang," Guy said. He said he saw a young man in his teens or early 20s run away from the garage and across the vacant lot between his building and the condemned house.

Police had Bartlett and Pierce streets cordoned off Saturday morning, but a garage sale went on as planned a few doors from one of the burned buildings on Bartlett Street.

The buildings at 110 Pierce St., 114 Pierce St. and 149 Bartlett St. were all owned by Phyllis St. Laurent, who was at the scene of the fire Saturday morning. She said she had owned the buildings for 29 years and had recently renovated many of the units.

"I'm devastated," St. Laurent said. "I am just glad no one got hurt."

She said she did not know who owns the condemned building and garage at 116 Pierce St.

Adriana Garcia, the manager of a building where one of the fires broke out, told the Sun Journal newspaper that one of the displaced residents is a brother of Gov. Paul LePage, The Associated Press reported. City fire officials didn't immediately return a call from the AP seeking comment, and the governor's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said she was checking into the report.

LePage grew up in poverty in Lewiston and has more than a dozen siblings.

'THE HOUSE IS BURNING!'

The scene Friday night was surreal. Two buildings on Pierce Street and two more on Bartlett Street were ablaze. Thick plumes of black smoke could be seen from miles away, and orange and red lit up the night sky from the flames and the light bars of dozens of first-responder vehicles.

Firefighters on ladder trucks 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.

At least 10 communities quickly sent fire crews to aid Lewiston. Some from as far away as Portland were at the scene or covering Lewiston's firehouses.

Nimo Mohamed, 20, a resident of 110 Pierce St., said Friday night's fire jumped to her building from 114 Pierce St.

Mohamed, a student at Central Maine Community College, said she was studying when smoke poured into her building and a neighbor yelled, "Get out! The house is burning!"

She said she and 12 other family members, immigrants from Somalia, lived in a five-room apartment on two floors of the building. They fear that all of their identification was destroyed, along with two laptops, she said.

Mohamed's cousin, Nadifa Mohamed, 21, arrived from her home in a different part of Lewiston early Saturday to check on her relatives. She circulated through the crowd of police officers and firefighters, thanking them for their efforts.

"They saved lives and put their own lives at risk," Nadifa Mohamed said. "If it weren't for them, the whole city would be gone."

Mana Abdi, 17, lives on the first floor of 114 Pierce St. with her mother and brother. She saw the fire around 10:30 p.m.

"I woke up Mom; the fire was going nuts. I'm still shaking," she said.

On Saturday, residents of buildings in the neighorhood expressed worry about more fires and wondered whether condemned buildings were being targeted -- the area is riddled with condemned housing.

(Continued on page 3)

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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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