GARDINER — Fire heavily damaged a two-story apartment building at 33 Spring St. in Gardiner Tuesday, leaving about eight people homeless.

No one was injured in the blaze that was reported around 10:12 a.m. and appeared to originate on the first floor.

By 11 a.m., firefighters from Gardiner and multiple surrounding communities had knocked down the bulk of the fire, but they continued to look for hot spots for more than an hour after that, removing sections of the building to do so.

“It’s a terrible loss,” said Sharon Geroux, one of the building’s co-owners. Choking up, she continued, “The building was not even the biggest loss. My cat’s dead, I’m sure. I couldn’t get her out of there. There was so much smoke.”

Two families were living the complex, which included four apartment units and a beauty salon that was operated by Geroux, 56.

Sharon Geroux lived in one of the first-floor units with her 59-year-old husband, Richard Geroux. Her 80-year-old mother lived in a separate unit and her 36-year-old daughter and 16-year-old grandson lived in their own apartment on the upper floor.

A fourth unit was inhabited by a man who would only identify himself as William, his girlfriend and their daughter.

All the inhabitants, as well as one of Sharon Geroux’s aunts who was visiting, were either away or left the building safely on Tuesday morning.

They were also able to remove two dogs, a Pomeranian named Boo and a Shih Tzu named Marley, but two cats remained unaccounted for late Tuesday morning.

Several of the residents said the fire may have been the result of an electrical malfunction, but by noon, Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said the cause still hadn’t been determined. An investigator from the state fire marshal’s office was also at the scene on Tuesday.

Sharon Geroux said that her mother was watching television and heard a popping noise coming from it before the fire, and Richard Geroux said that a circuit in the home also shorted out.

The destruction was all the more tragic, Sharon Geroux said, because her mother just turned 80-years-old on Monday, and her aunt, Jackie Hanley, had come from out-of-town to celebrate the occasion.

“We were sleeping, and the next thing I know, my aunt was screaming ‘fire,'” Sharon Geroux said. “Aunt Jackie just came up from Florida. She got here last night.”

The building had smoke alarms, but Sharon Geroux said she didn’t hear them go off on Tuesday. Once they noticed the smoke, her husband went to the upper floor to wake their grandson, 16-year-old Tyrone Payne, a student at Gardiner Area High School. His mother, Victoria Geroux, was working at MaineGeneral Medical Center at the time of the fire, but left work when she heard about it.

The man who lived on the second floor with his girlfriend and daughter said he was working in Monmouth at the time of the fire, but that he had previously deactivated the fire alarm in his unit because he couldn’t get it to stop making beeping noises.

Neither Sharon’s family members nor the younger couple who was staying in the building knew where they were going to stay Tuesday night. The Red Cross plans to help between eight and 10 people affected by the fire, according to a press release from the organization.

By late Tuesday morning, firefighters had helped recover important medications from the interior of the building, Richard Geroux said.

The building, which has belonged to Sharon Geroux’s family for most of her life, is on a steep hill and surrounded by trees. Spring Street was blocked off by fire trucks and hoses for much of Tuesday morning.

Nelson did not return a phone call Tuesday afternoon seeking additional information about the damage from the fire and its potential causes. The state fire marshal’s office also did not respond to a call Tuesday afternoon.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

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Twitter: @ceichacker