Firefighters battle a building fire on Pembroke Street in Portland on Friday morning. Zack Aldrich/Portland Press Herald

Seven people were displaced by back-to-back fires in their apartment building in Portland on Thursday and Friday.

The cause of both fires at 23 Pembroke St. remains unclear, although they do not appear to be suspicious. Portland Fire Department spokesman Sean Donaghue said nearby residents reported a lighting strike around 4 or 5 a.m. – hours after the first fire and shortly before the second – but he did not know if it was related.

“We do not know if the two fires are related at this point, and we can’t confirm either are related to a lightning strike, but the first fire occurred around the time of the afternoon storms on Thursday and we also have reports from neighborhood residents of lightning possibility this morning,” Donaghue wrote in an email Friday.

No one was injured in either blaze.

Donaghue said crews responded to a small fire at the three-unit building Thursday afternoon during a heavy thunderstorm. The seven people living there were evacuated then, so no one was in the building at the time of Friday morning’s fire, Donaghue said.

The second and more serious blaze was reported shortly after 5 a.m. Friday. Donaghue said the department struck a second alarm on Friday at 5:43 a.m. and a third alarm at 5:57 a.m. to bring more crews to the scene.


A neighbor woke up around 5 a.m. Friday to flames and billowing smoke coming from the apartment building next door. Ruth Ridge, 48, said she got a clearer look at the fire through her bathroom window, then woke up her nephew. She took him and her Chihuahua to Beal’s Ice Cream down the street to escape the fumes.

“There’s a lot of damage,” Ridge said. “I was concerned about my house.”

Donaghue said the building sustained “extensive damage.” Firefighters worked for hours to find and extinguish any hot spots. The building appeared to have fire damage near the roof and several windows were broken. Nearby roads closed for much of the day.

– Staff Writer Megan Gray contributed to this report

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