Jolean Beane carries her sister-in-law’s cat, Jax, back to her car after she caught him outside of the apartment building that caught fire on Swett Street in the early morning on Wednesday. Bean said her sister-in-law’s family escaped the fire and left the backdoor open as they left. They didn’t know what happened to their cat Jax. Beane spent the morning looking for him and finally found him as he ran back to his home. “We didn’t think there was any way the cat got out,” Beane said. “The kids will be so happy.” (Press Herald photo / Brianna Soukup)

BRUNSWICK — An unattended candle likely sparked a Wednesday morning fire that “gutted” a Brunswick apartment building, displacing several families, according to Brunswick Fire Chief Kenneth Brillant.

Crews from Brunswick and Topsham responded to a three-alarm fire at 13 Swett St. just after 4 a.m. and battled the blaze for several hours, leaving the scene after 10 a.m.

Most residents got out on their own, but police officers had to assist someone from the third floor, Brillant said. No one was injured.

Neighbors in the area said they were woken up around 4:30 a.m. and told to evacuate. They grouped together in the winter drizzle as temperatures hovered around 30 degrees, watching as firefighters worked to extinguish the flames which could be seen through the windows of the three-story building.

Wednesday’s early morning snow and sleet were somewhat of a hazard, Brillant said, making the roads “slick” with ice. Another early ambulance call left first responders 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 fire.

Brilliant said investigators felt “very confident” that the candle was the initial cause of the blaze.

According to town records, the building is owned by the Greater Brunswick Housing Corp., which acquired the property in 2013. The building, built around 1880, was valued at $167,000, according to town records. There are three units in the building — two 3-bedroom apartments and one 2-bedroom.

Greater Brunswick Housing Corp. 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 immediate sheltering and basic amenities like clothing, Brillant said.

“A call like that, you’re heart comes through your chest,” said John Hodge, executive director of the housing authority. He added that he was “so grateful that everyone is safe.”

He is in contact with several other local property management firms who might have space for the families and they are looking into what’s available through their own organization as well, he said. The organization is responsible for more than 300 units in the area.

Conversations about the rebuilding process will begin as soon as possible he said. “You can’t control what happens” to the buildings, and such a fire is tragic, he said, “but we need housing in this community” so he intends to move quickly.  

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: