GARDINER — Fire officials say an electrical problem sparked the blaze that destroyed the second floor of a historic building at 192 Water St.

The state fire marshal’s office said in a Saturday afternoon news release that a second-floor florescent ceiling light malfunctioned, prompting a fire that took firefighters nearly 13 hours to put out.

Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said crews responded to a report of the fire around 3 a.m. Friday and the fire was out by 4 p.m. No one was inside during the fire.

Nelson said the fire created a challenge for firefighters because of multiple spaces between layers of roofing, a function of replacing the roof a number of times. Once crews were able to cut holes in the roof, they were able to quell the flames.

The original building at that site was built in 1837, according to Gardiner Public Library special collections librarian Dawn Thistle, but it burned in 1901 and 1902, causing it to be torn down to the foundation and rebuilt in 1903. The building housed hotels, shops and offices, but it was best known as the location of Maine Trust and Banking Co.

“The current building itself was the result of one of Gardiner’s great efforts to rebuild after a disaster,” Thistle said in a Friday afternoon email. “We’re nothing if not (resilient)!”

The building’s owner, Fernando Jantorno Stelser, opened the Domino’s Pizza location in the building in June 2017. The second floor contains office spaces for law firms and consultants.

Nelson said Friday that the second floor was a total loss and the first floor had extensive water and smoke damage. He said Saturday that repairs to the first and second floors might be possible because fire did not gut either floor.

“If I look at it off the cuff, I’d say it’s a loss, but you never know,” he said, adding that people could do “amazing things” with damaged buildings.

The building is in the city’s Downtown Historic District. Any changes to the building’s outer appearance, such as windows, facades or doors, would be subject to approval by the Historic Preservation Committee before going to the Planning Board. Committee member Geri Doyle said the committee is not concerned with any changes inside.

Doyle said it would be possible to demolish the building with committee permission. Back in 2015, a fire-damaged building at 235 Water St. was demolished after a blaze damaged four buildings and displaced 12 tenants.

Doyle said the committee will wait to take action until Stelser submits a proposal.

“I hope and pray that Fernando has good insurance … and can rebuild,” she said.

 

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