Firefighters remove oxygen tanks as a fire burns Sunday afternoon within the former mill building near Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

LEWISTON — Firefighters contained a fire that started in the basement of a former mill building at 1 Beech St. on Sunday afternoon, according to Lewiston Fire Capt. Wallace Veilleux.

Veilleux said that the Lewiston Fire Department received a call just before noon from someone walking in Simard-Payne Memorial Park that smoke was wafting from one of the windows of the building, the location of the former Camden Yarns Mill.

Museum L-A is in the process of moving to the building.

“We opened up the building and started looking around, but the building is unoccupied and not safe as it is,” Veilleux said. “There’s a lot of staircases and it was hard to maneuver inside. It was very difficult to find where (the fire) was.”

Firefighters were able to locate the fire in the basement of the building. At the time, the fire had spread between the basement and the first floor.

Veilleux said that there was “not a ton” of fire damage, “just a lot of smoke that made it really difficult to see what was going on.”

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He said that Lewiston Fire Inspector Ryan Coleman would remain on scene until the “air in the building is safe enough so he can go in,” and that the cause of the fire remained undetermined.

“Right now, there’s still smoke in the building and it’s not safe to breathe, so he’ll be here for a little while longer until he can get inside,” Veilleux said.

Rachel Desgrosseilliers, executive director of Museum L-A, said that she received a call from the Lewiston Fire Department at 12:09 p.m. that the building was on fire.

“It’s very upsetting because we’ve done a lot of work here to get it ready for the museum,” Desgrosseilliers said.

She said that while the second story of the building is empty, there was original equipment and storage from the Camden Yarns Mill on the first floor.

“Hopefully, none of that stuff was damaged,” she said. “We also had about $7,000 of old wood taken from the two buildings we tore down at the lot. We’re going to re-use some of the wood as the floor of the new museum.”

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Desgrosseilliers, who sat outside of the building as firefighters rushed in and out, said that “it’s just a waiting game now to see how bad the damage is.”

“I also have to figure out how to keep the building secure,” Desgrosseiliers added. “They had to pry open the doors and windows to get inside. Now, I need to figure out how to keep the building safe again.”

Ownership of the Camden Yarns Mill was transferred to Museum L-A in June 2009.

The original building was constructed in 1864 as one of Lewiston’s earliest cotton mills, Desgrosseilliers said on the museum’s website.

The museum is currently housed in the Bates Mill Complex at 35 Canal St.

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