AUGUSTA — Deborah Boothby woke up to a ball of fire outside her window.

“Fire, Nate!” she yelled to her 15-year-old son. They bolted out of the apartment and jumped over a railing on the back side of an 18-unit building at 36 Northern Ave.

They bolted out of the apartment and jumped over a railing on the back side of the 18-unit building at 36 Northern Ave., suffering burns as they fled the intense blaze.

Boothby wore a bandage over the left side of her face as she spoke late Friday morning outside the Super 8 motel in Augusta, where her son was resting in a room. A freshman at Cony High School, he and his mother moved into the apartment when he was a baby and he has known no other home.

They lost everything, including their car, her wedding pictures and his school-issued laptop. Neighbors lost pets.

“But we’ve got to thank God we’re alive,” Deborah Boothby said. “That’s all that matters.”

The massive fire that leveled the historic apartment building – it was built in 1845 as a boarding house for mill workers – was reported at 2 a.m. Friday.

All 23 residents inside the building in the city’s Sand Hill neighborhood escaped, some with help from police and firefighters. Seven people, including the two Boothbys, were taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center for burns, smoke inhalation or hypothermia, said Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette.

The building had working smoke detectors and each apartment had two exits, which allowed all of the residents to escape the burning building, Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement Friday night.

The blaze left 27 people homeless. The State Fire Marshal’s Office plans to interview all of them over the weekend to determine the cause of the fire, which investigators say started in the rear of the building on one of the upper floors.

Schools on Augusta’s west side canceled outdoor recess because of ash from the fire that fell across the city. Some cinders started a small fire in a nearby building owned by the Augusta Fuel Company, Audette said, but it was quickly contained. The fire also destroyed seven cars on the apartment building’s back side.

The fire chief called the initial response chaotic, with firefighters and police helping residents escape.

“It was a big fire when we got here,” Audette said. “It was a bigger fire when we got everybody out.”

Residents reported that the smoke detectors were working and that there were no problems in the building, he said.

Brian Lewis agreed, and he should know: the 64-year-old was a longtime resident of the building and showed apartments to prospective tenants on behalf of landlord Yvon Doyon of Sidney.

“One of my laments is that I’m not going to find another landlord as good as that one,” Lewis said. “He was a good owner, he took care of his building, he did the work well and he was remodeling.”

The building was still smoking when crews stopped putting water on the top floor with a tower truck just before 9 a.m. – seven hours after the fire was reported.

After that, an excavator tore the building apart so firefighters could get to remaining hot spots, nearly leveling a structure that was built almost 170 years ago by a company that ran a textile mill on the Kennebec River, according to Earle Shettleworth, Maine’s state historian.

At that time, it was common for companies to rent rooms to workers who came from throughout the region to work in mills.

The fire also knocked out power to homes and businesses on Northern Avenue and Mill Street. The community responded quickly, with the United Way of Kennebec Valley opening its Front Street warming center, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The United Way is accepting donations on behalf of fire victims, spokeswoman Heather Pouliot said.

Amanda Bartlett, executive director of the Augusta Housing Authority, said her office would hold a forum from 4-6 p.m. Monday at nearby Gilbert Elementary School to help displaced residents find housing.

Lewis was among the displaced residents staying at the Super 8 on Friday morning and receiving assistance from the American Red Cross.

After 14 years in the building, he wasn’t looking forward to starting over. He said he had the nicest apartment in the building, knew almost all of his neighbors and often got groups together for meals.

“It was a nice building,” he said. “It was my home.”

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