MADISON — The fire last week that destroyed three buildings on Main Street and was ultimately extinguished with help from nine fire departments has been ruled arson.
Sgt. Ken Grimes, with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said Wednesday that the March 6 fire was set intentionally outside at the back of the buildings at the basement level.
He declined to say what was used to start the fire, or to identify any potential suspects, citing an ongoing investigation.
The three interconnected buildings at 85-91 Main St. each had a door that opened to Main Street and were owned by Gordon and Martha Robbins. One housed an antique store that was being renovated. All the buildings were insured.
Rubble now fills a gaping hole downtown between the vacant Blackwell building and Economy Trophy.
There was no power to any of the buildings at the time of the fire, Grimes said. He added that there is no evidence that the public should be worried about a continued arson threat.
A fire two years ago in an apartment above the antique shop is not related to the current investigation.
Madison Fire Chief Roger Lightbody Sr. said there was little firefighters could do to prevent the buildings from burning and that they focused their efforts on saving the adjacent structures and the downtown.
“When I got there, it was just billowing a lot of smoke, and there was quite a lot of fire out back,” he said.
He had hoped to get firefighters to extinguish the flames from inside the buildings, he said, but there was too much heat and fire. The buildings were fully ablaze within minutes.
Starting around 10:35 p.m., about 60 firefighters responded from Madison and eight other towns: Anson, Cornville, Industry, New Portland, Norridgewock, Skowhegan, Solon and Starks.
Two firefighters suffered slight injuries, Lightbody said. One injured a hand that did not require treatment. Another complained of asthma-related chest trouble and was taken to the hospital. Both are fine, he said.
Some crews remained until the morning to fight the flames. They then returned during the day to put out hot spots and to use an excavator to knock down what remained of the structure.
“It was too dangerous to leave it up,” Lightbody said.
At their meeting on Monday, selectmen signed a letter commending the responding agencies for their “assistance in saving our downtown.”
Lightbody said it’s troubling to know someone purposely set fire to Main Street, but he trusts the person or people involved will be caught.
“They may get away for a while, but it comes around,” he said.
Grimes said people should contact the fire marshal’s office at 626-3870 if they have any information. Stuart Jacobs is the primary investigator.
Erin Rhoda — 612-2368