LEWISTON — Investigators were still searching Wednesday for the cause of a fire that burned through much of a downtown apartment building a day earlier, leaving 24 people homeless.

No one was injured in the fire. The four-story wood frame building has 17 units and is considered a total loss, according to Lewiston Fire Chief Paul LeClair. Investigators with the Lewiston Fire Department and state Fire Marshal’s Office were on the scene throughout the day Wednesday.

The fire apparently started on a third-floor porch at the rear of the building, LeClair said. When firefighters arrived, they found the third- and fourth-floor porches at the rear of the building engulfed in flames, which then spread to the roof.

Amy Britton, who lives across the street, said Wednesday that she noticed an orange glow coming in her apartment window Tuesday evening, looked outside and saw flames coming from the rear of the building.

She rushed across the street and started banging on doors and ringing door bells to alert the people inside, she said.

“I got one guy out,” Britton said.

The building is in the same area of Lewiston where three arsons over several days destroyed nine apartment buildings and displaced more than 200 of the city’s poorest residents in spring 2013.

Memories of those blazes were on the minds Wednesday of passersby who gaped at the charred building throughout the day, some of whom made reference to them.

Rob Haggar, a property manager for Rockwell, said he had to eject a disorderly man Tuesday from the building with the help of police.

“I had a little incident getting him out of the building,” Haggar said Wednesday. “He just didn’t belong here and we’ve had to keep telling him to leave.”

Lewiston police would not confirm any arrests at the building earlier in the day, but other residents of 101 Birch St. said they saw the incident.

Kelli Coolidge, who lived on the building’s second floor, described the man as a regular visitor who has been disruptive in the past.

Kimberly Breton said Wednesday that her aunt lives in the building with her two children, and that the man who was kicked off the property had been there before and had argued with residents.

“They’d given him a warning, and he was here last night,” Breton said.

Coolidge did not identify the man, and LeClair would not confirm the incident.

Until Tuesday, the apartment building was owned by Rockwell Investment Group LLC, a Lebanon-based company owned by Aaron J. Winwell of Lebanon and Rock M. Bisson of Wakefield, New Hampshire, according to state incorporation records and Lewiston city property records.

The fire occurred on the same day that the property was sold, according to Haggar and a man who said he was a representative of the buyer, ANS Holdings, who was at the fire site Wednesday. The man did not give his name, but said the company had planned to start renovations there Wednesday. Instead, they spent the day securing the building’s doors and windows, while debris sat in heaps nearby. The sale could not be independently confirmed.

The Red Cross of Maine provided emergency shelter to the residents – 22 adults and two children – who were displaced by the fire.

Two adults and two minors were charged in the 2013 arsons in Lewiston.

One of the adults, Bryan Wood, was found not competent to stand trial because of his limited intellect. The other adult charged, Brian Morin, 31, pleaded guilty June 6 and was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by 12 years of probation.

The state dismissed its case against one of the minors, Brody Covey, who was 12 when he was accused of setting the first fire, because police failed to read him his constitutional rights before questioning him. A judge ruled in August that 14-year-old Abdi Ibrahim, who was 12 at the time of the fires, is competent to stand trial.


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