An overnight fire at a Windham mill complex was deemed accidental by investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
The fire gutted a three-story brick building next to the main mill building at 3 Mallison Falls Road. According to the Fire Marshal’s Office, the third floor of the building had been occupied, and a former tenant was in the process of moving out when the fire broke out.
The tenant, identified as Joseph Smith, had been evicted by his landlord, Kevin Finkenaur, by order of a Cumberland County judge March 9, according to court paperwork. Electricity to the building had been shut off, and Smith told investigators he had lit candles to light his way as he moved his belongings out Wednesday night.
Investigators said the fire started in a stairwell between the second and third floors, and that Smith reported the fire when he discovered it.
According to court paperwork, Smith was at least four months behind on rent. Finkenaur, who runs a moving and furniture repair business that occupies most of the mill campus, had first filed eviction paperwork against Smith in February, and a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy served Smith with a notice to vacate the premises.
Finkenaur is facing charges that he assaulted Smith on Jan. 27, court paperwork shows. He was also charged with disorderly conduct on the same date when he placed a padlock on the door to Smith’s apartment, according to court records.
Finkenaur hung up the phone when contacted by a reporter Thursday, and did not return a message seeking comment.
A phone number for Smith could not be located.
The mill, a prominent South Windham landmark, sits in a village that straddles the border between Windham and Gorham along the Presumpscot River. The complex was originally a sawmill built in the 1700s. It also served as a woolen mill and later as a steel mill. For a time, it was the home of Rich Tool and Die, which moved out in the 1990s.
In 2015, Hardypond Construction of Portland proposed redeveloping the former mill into 109 apartments.
The mill property’s owner, Phil Buker, said he has been under contract since April to sell the property to Finkenaur. The buildings are insured, he said, and the sale is expected to go through.
Buker said he was relieved that no one was hurt in the blaze.
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: