Nine people have been left temporarily homeless after an electrical fire caused severe damage to a three-story house on Longfellow Street Thursday morning.

Westbrook Fire Chief Gary Littlefield said someone passing by the scene reported the fire at approximately 9 a.m. By the time firefighters arrived at the house, flames had spread to most of the second floor and thick black smoke was pouring out of the windows on the third floor.

The fire was a fast moving one. Littlefield said by the time firefighters were able to get into the house, flames had spread up through the walls and through much of the third floor. It took firefighters about 30 minutes to get the flames under control. A defective electrical junction box in a ceiling on the second floor caused the fire, Littlefield said on Thursday afternoon.

Littlefield said the house was “extremely damaged,” though he did not think it was beyond repair. Approximately two hours after the fire was extinguished, firefighters were visible through a large hole in the roof sorting through debris in the house’s attic.

Only two residents were home at the time of the fire and they both got out without injury, Littlefield said, adding that the four cats that lived in the house were also rescued. While none of the residents were injured, two firefighters suffered minor injuries. Westbrook firefighter Kathy Reynolds suffered an apparent minor leg injury. She left the house under her own power, said Littlefield, and she was taken to a local hospital by ambulance for treatment. Capt. Jim Harbaugh also went to a local hospital where he was treated and released for a minor hand injury, Littlefield said.

Residents were still shaken by the fire as they watched firefighters work on the remains of the house. Mike Hart, who lived in an apartment on the first floor, said he and his 2-year-old daughter were asleep in their apartment when the fire started, and he didn’t wake up until he heard a firefighter pounding on his door.

At first, Hart said he was angry because someone had woken him up, but once he found out what was going on, he quickly gathered up his sleeping daughter and rushed her out of the house. “That was my major concern, getting her out and getting her to safety,” said Hart.

Once his daughter was safe, Hart said he ran quickly back into his apartment and grabbed some clothes for the girl, who was sleeping in just a diaper at the time. The flames did not reach Hart’s apartment, though he said it did fill with smoke.

Lori May, who also lives on the first floor, was not home when the fire broke out, but she arrived there soon afterwards. She said her main concern was making sure someone got into her apartment and got her cat out safely. After about 30 minutes, May said firefighters got into her apartment and she was reunited with her cat, which was not harmed. Looking at the ruined house, May said the full weight of the fire has not hit her yet.

“I’m upset,” she said. “But I haven’t hit the crying point.”

Hart said he is grateful no one was seriously hurt in the fire, and he added he is going to try to take whatever he can from his apartment and move on from there. “That’s the major thing, everyone got out safely,” he said. “We’re just hoping we can save some stuff, and we’ll just take it from there.”

The Red Cross is working with the residents of the house to provide temporary shelter, food and clothing. Firefighters from Gorham, Windham and Scarborough assisted the Westbrook Fire Department at the scene.

fire 3 Flames from an electrical fire burst through the roof of a Longfellow Street house on Thursday morning. The fire left nine people homeless. None of the residents were injured, though two firefighters suffered minor 34 Gorham firefighter A firefighter from Gorham prepares to enter a burning house on Longfellow Street in Westbrook Thursday morning. Fire officals believe the fire was started by a defective electrical junction box on the second floor.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: