May 11, 2013

Two accused of setting third fire in Lewiston

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Bryan Wood, left, and Brian Morin

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Firefighters spray water on the roof of a vacant apartment building on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on May 6, 2013 following a third major fire in eight days in the downtown area.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Charron said she expects most of the displaced residents to find new housing by the end of next week.

"It's just amazing how people have worked so well together," Charron said, rattling off a list of state and nonprofit groups that have lined up to help.

Since the fires, the city's effort to identify, condemn and repossess decrepit buildings has ramped up, with Lewiston public safety and inspection personnel identifying a 30-block area that contains the most glaring issues.

The city has so far issued 24 temporary passes to the city dump that waives tipping fees, an incentive for tenants and landlords to tidy up unsafe and unattractive properties.

Also on Friday, the Department of Corrections said it would send prison work crews to Lewiston to help clean up debris and flammable material in vacant lots.

The prison crews would not be at the scenes of the fires, according to Maine Correctional Center Superintendent Scott Burnheimer. 

Firefighters on Friday also began a biannual inspection process of the dozens of vacant and condemned properties that dot the densely built neighborhood. 

Lt. James Pelletier of the Lewiston Fire Department visited several of the vacant homes, wielding a clipboard and checklist, inspecting the windows and doors while other firefighters affixed red and white placards that mean the buildings are unsafe for firefighters to enter during a fire.

The fire department's proactive inspection regimen helps identify unsecured buildings that could be easy prey for copper thieves, drug users, or vagrants looking for a place to stay, said code enforcement officer and police Cpl. Jeff Baril, who estimated that copper theft is the quickest catalyst in a property's demise.

But amid the dirt lots and blighted buildings, there were rays of optimism and renewal Friday as well.

Klara Tammany, director at the Center for Wisdom's Women, was labeling Popsicle sticks to mark where other volunteers planted sunflower seeds in the now-vacant lot at the site of the first fire on Blake Street. Unwilling to take over the property with blossoms without permission, the rebel gardeners planted the donated seeds at the edge of the property.

"My dream was to seed this with a sunflower field, and have a huge sign of hope at the end of the summer," Tammany said. "We're hoping it will make somebody smile."

-- Staff Writer Eric Russell and Jason Singer, assistant city editor / online,  contributed to this report.

Edward D. Murphy can be reached at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

Matt Byrne can be reached at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@mainetoday.com

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Additional Photos

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This photo is of Brian Morin, 29, one of the suspects in Monday's fire in downtown Lewiston. It is a still image taken from a WGME video interview on Monday, May 6, 2013, hours after the fire.

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Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed multiple vacant apartment buildings on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on May 6, 2013.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Lt. James Pelletier of the Lewiston Fire Dept. completes a vacant building inspection on Walnut Street Friday, May 10, 2013.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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A sign marks a building condemned at 47 Knox Street in Lewiston Friday, May 10, 2013.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

  


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