HARTLAND — Lisa Brown and Brittany Gould were standing outside the burned-out building that housed their ruined apartments and Nettie’s restaurant Friday morning when a man wearing an orange visor and ear protectors walked up to them and handed them each $50 cash.

The man was Dean Green, who said he lives in his Winstar RV and was visiting town. When he heard about the fire, he wanted to help, he said. He said he was a victim of a fire in Clinton in the 1960s.

“I’m just giving to help them out,” he said after reading the lips of a reporter, as he is deaf. “I know how painful it is.”

When they were given the money, Brown asked “Really?” in disbelief. Tears came to Gould’s eyes. They both thanked him, and Green gave Gould a hug before he left.

Friday was a difficult day for Jeanette Tripodi, owner of Nettie’s, and the six renters who lived in the three second-story apartments above the business. It was also one of fortuity.

The fire was discovered because of the routine Brown has with her boyfriend, Eddie Young. When he works late at Irving Tanning Co., she always waits up for him. On Friday he arrived a little after 2 a.m.

It was then that she told him she smelled smoke, Young said. He went downstairs but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. When he returned upstairs, though, the air was smoky.

When he went downstairs a second time, he saw flames through the restaurant window, he said. They called 911 and started banging on their neighbors’ doors to wake them up. All six renters — two in each apartment — were outside by the time firefighters arrived.

“Thank God he was there and awake because who knows what would have happened,” Gould said about Young.

Hartland Fire Chief Donald Neal said there is substantial damage to the restaurant. One apartment sustained more fire damage than the others, but they all sustained heavy smoke and water damage. Though the suspended ceiling inside the restaurant collapsed, the structure as a whole appears sound, he said.

“I think we were lucky that it didn’t get further ahead than it did. It could have been a lot worse,” he said. He didn’t know what the owner planned to do with the property, and Tripodi declined to comment.

Several renters said they did not have insurance, though Neal said Tripodi had insured the building. Investigators with the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office could not determine the cause of the fire Friday.

No one was injured, but two cats died. Gould said her female cat, Beans, fled, and she couldn’t find her. “I had to get out myself,” she said. Married Oct. 8 to Joey Gould, she said she lost much of her wedding memorabilia.

Brown’s male cat, Junior, also died in the fire.

About 30 firefighters from Hartland, St. Albans and Pittsfield responded. It took them about 45 minutes to put out most of the flames, though some remained on scene until the afternoon.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]


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