The cause of a fire that damaged the Peaks Island post office and an attached private residence Monday afternoon is under investigation.

Portland Fire Chief Keith Gautreau said the fire at 76 Island Ave. appears to have started at the rear of the post office building where a private residence is located. The chief said the fire, which is not suspicious, may have started in brush or mulch near a rear deck.

The fire, reported just before 2 p.m., heavily damaged the deck and residence but was slowed by a fire wall that separates the residence from the post office. There were people inside the residence and post office, but everyone made it out safely, Gautreau said.

“There is severe damage to the residence, but the post office appears to have suffered minor damage,” the fire chief said. “The fire wall did its job.”

Investigators from the Portland Fire Department, State Fire Marshal’s Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were at the scene Monday night sifting through the rubble to determine the cause, the fire chief said. The ATF was notified because the fire damaged a federally owned building.

“It went up fast and really totaled the rear of the building,” said Bob Hannigan, the owner of Hannigan’s Island Market. “The damage is unbelievable.”

The market is located about 75 feet from the store. Hannigan called 911 after the fire broke out. He said he was concerned because the fire was burning near an exterior propane tank.

Flames were shooting 30 feet into the air and smoke was visible from Portland, 3 miles away. Peaks Island is part of the city and is home to about 850 year-round residents.

Gautreau praised island firefighters, several of whom are volunteers, retired, or were off-duty, as well as mainland crews for their swift response. Portland’s fire boat transported mainland firefighters to the island in two separate trips. At the height of the fire, there were about 25 firefighters on the scene, he said. An engine truck and a ladder truck stationed on Peaks Island were deployed.

“The outcome might have been a lot different if it weren’t for the five or six call firefighters who were on the island and who responded,” Gautreau said.

The extent of the damage to the post office wasn’t immediately known, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Boston.

Deputy Chief Kevin McGuire of the Portland Fire Department watches firefighters douse a flame-topped propane tank to keep it cool at the post office on Peaks Island on Monday afternoon. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“We are still in the process of assessing damage to the facility and it’s too soon to tell how much, if any, mail was damaged in the fire,” spokesman Steve Doherty said in an email. “We’ll have a better assessment on both counts in the morning.”

Doherty said that regular street delivery will not be affected Tuesday. Mail carriers will be dispatched from another location and if necessary, retail services and Post Office Box customers may be temporarily relocated.

The post office is near the island’s ferry terminal.


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