WATERVILLE — A fire that extensively damaged an old wooden house on Elm Court early Sunday was arson, a state investigator said Thursday.

“It was an intentionally set fire,” said Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Fire Marshal’s Office. He said the fire was started on the back porch.

He said there are no suspects and he appealed to the public for help in finding out who set it. The fire was reported at 1:22 a.m. Sunday on the narrow, one-way street.

The vacant, two-and-a-half story one-family house, owned by Deutsch Bank of Texas, was built in 1900, according to fire officials.

“We’d like to put out a request to the public that if they happened to hear anything, let us know,” he said. “In situations like this it’s community involvement, as far as trying to solve this. This is one of those situations where someone in the neighborhood may have seen something and may not think it is important, but certainly is a benefit to us and the local police department.”

Grimes said people may have seen or heard something in the days preceding the fire that could help solve the case. Arson is a class A felony. The fire is also under investigation by the city’s police and fire departments.

Grimes said the local investigating agencies, in touch with the community, are an important part of the investigation.

Waterville Fire Chief David LaFountain said Thursday that firefighters from Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland worked hard to keep the fire from spreading to other houses.

“In the middle of the night in a tight neighborhood is very dangerous,” LaFountain said. “We were fortunate that we had just got back from another call, so we had manpower ready to respond. We also weren’t shy about calling in other (fire departments).”

Neighbors on the street, many of whom stayed  up all night, are still frightened and worry that whoever started the fire will strike again.

“We don’t feel safe around here,” said Patricia Farnsworth, 67, who lives in an apartment diagonally across the street from the burned house. “Nobody’s ever done that this close before.”

Farnsworth said Thursday afternoon that she was so shaken by the fire that she was up all night and wasn’t able to sleep until that Sunday evening. Now, when the phone rings, she jumps.

“I go to bed and I sleep, but not like I used to,” she said.

Besides the fear she and her neighbors experienced because of the fire, the smell from the burned house wafts through the neighborhood and when it rains, it’s worse, she said.

“That stink is something else,” she said.

She said the neighborhood is close-knit and she thinks people will be willing to report anything they saw or heard to authorities, to help them figure out who set the house on fire.

“I’m sure they (neighbors) would because if they do, they can get a hold of that bank to do something to tear it down. It’s an eyesore and it’s just scary.”

Grimes asked anyone with information to call the state Fire Marshal’s Office at 626-3870 or Waterville police at 680-4700.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]