BRUNSWICK — Firefighters from Brunswick and Topsham battled an early-morning fire on Swett Street that Fire Chief Kenneth Brillant said left the three-story multi-family home “gutted.”

Neighbors in the area say they were woken up around 4:30 a.m. and told to evacuate.

Crews fought the fire at 13 Swett St. for several hours, Brillant said. Most residents self-evacuated, but police officers had to assist someone from the third floor, he said. There were no injuries and the cause of the fire had not been determined.

Crews battle an early-morning fire on Swett Street in Brunswick on Wednesday. John Swinconeck / The Times Record

Those living in the area grouped together in the drizzle as temperatures hovered around 30 degrees. Firefighters used ladder trucks and hoses to attempt to extinguish the stubborn fire, which could be seen through the windows of the wood-frame building.

Dillon Havener, who lives on nearby High Street, said he awoke “to a bunch of fire trucks pulling in all at once” on the narrow streets in the neighborhood between Pleasant Street and Mill Street, which also is Route 1 where it runs along the Androscoggin River.

“I woke up to hearing popping noises, thinking someone was banging something around,” said High Street resident Dina Draper, one of several residents who fled their nearby homes while still in their pajamas. “I came outside and they (firefighters) were here, and that thing was going. And then they just told everyone to evacuate just in case it spreads. So we’ve been out here waiting.”

Another neighbor stood in the freezing rain with a blanket wrapped around her.

Dale Newcomer, with the Brunswick Housing Authority, picks up some debris from a fire at an apartment building on Swett Street that caught fire in the early morning on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. Everyone living in the building escaped the fire, but nearly every part of the building was damaged. Newcomer, who has worked for the housing authority for over 15 years, said, “We have 320 apartments and this is a first for me.” Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

“I heard the cop cars and fire trucks outside my window, and I thought something was happening. I looked outside the second floor was on fire,” said Chelsea Dean. “This is a little dramatic, but it’s cold. I’ve been out here for about two hours now.”

Misty Coombs, who lives on High Street, said power to her house was out during the fire.

“I looked out, and all you could see was smoke,” Coombs said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ … I tried to turn on my light, but there was no power, no nothing.”

Coombs recalled seeing firefighters enter and exit the burning building.

“There was one that I saw that was just so exhausted, and they’ve been grabbing bottles of water. They thought they had it and it just started back up. This is crazy. I’m just glad everybody got out OK. … There’s a lot of people that live there.”

The rain early Wednesday made fighting the fire difficult, Brillant said, because if froze on contact and made the roads slick, A previous ambulance call had left them shorthanded with only five people to respond to the fire until mutual aid arrived. Given the restrictions of manpower and weather, Brillant said crews did an “awesome job” controlling the blaze.

Most of the crews had left by 10:30 a.m., leaving the deputy fire chief and a few detectives at the scene to help determine the cause of the fire.

According to town records, the building is owned by the Greater Brunswick Housing Corporation, which acquired the property in 2013, and is valued at $167,000. It was built around 1880. The building has three units: two three-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom.

Greater Brunswick Housing Corporation is a nonprofit housing development corporation organized by and affiliated with the Brunswick Housing Authority that supports the development of low-income housing. The organization is working to house those displaced by the fire and the Red Cross was contacted to assist with basic amenities like clothing, Brillant said.

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