Nov. 1, 1972: The Piscataqua River Bridge opens. The six-lane, 1,500-foot span becomes the third bridge linking Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As a newly opened portion of Interstate 95, it also quickly becomes the most frequently used route into and out of Maine.

The new bridge enables travelers to avoid the Portsmouth traffic circle, which often is clogged with traffic in the summer.

The $21 million bridge opens officially when Maine Transportation Commissioner David H. Stevens cuts a red, white and blue ribbon hanging across the center of it.

The entire project, including approach roads, cost about $35 million – about $218 million in 2020 value.

Nov. 1, 2014: An apartment house fire on Noyes Street in Portland, near the University of Southern Maine campus, kills six people, all in their 20s. It is Maine’s deadliest house fire in 30 years.

Firefighters and investigators recover five bodies at the scene. One severely burned man who escaped from the three-story building is taken to a Boston hospital, where he is listed in critical condition. He dies days later from his injuries.

Firefighters look over the scene of the fatal fire at an apartment building on Noyes Street in Portland on Nov. 1, 2014. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

The fire at the two-unit apartment house breaks out around 7 a.m. Witnesses say the fire appeared to start on the front porch. Seven people escape from the house uninjured.

Investigators later conclude the fire is an accident caused by improper disposal of smoking materials. That action ignited a chair and a couch on the porch, and the flames entered the building through an open door. The building had no smoke detectors, they say, and furniture was blocking a rear stairwell. One of the apartments did not comply with the fire code, they determine.

Building owner Gregory Nisbet, opting for a trial by a judge, later is acquitted of manslaughter charges but is sentenced to three months in jail after conviction for a misdemeanor building code violation. He is released Oct. 31, 2018, the day before the fourth anniversary of the fire.

The great loss of life prompts the city to institute policy changes. It imposes a citywide rental-unit registration fee designed to fund a building fire safety inspection program to focus on code violations and other problems.

In 2019, a memorial including a granite stone with a plaque affixed to it is erected in nearby Longfellow Park to honor the six people who died.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

Note: This story was updated Dec. 2 to correct a reference to the Noyes Street fire victim who got out through the building’s front door, only to die from his injuries days later.

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