Several hundred people gathered Tuesday night in a neighborhood park for a prayer vigil honoring the six young men and women who were killed in the Nov. 1 fire on Noyes Street in Portland.

The mourners included families, friends, neighborhood residents and at least a dozen firefighters who battled the fire, Maine’s deadliest in four decades.

“We’re here because we are part of the community, and we’re helping the community heal as well as ourselves” said Wendell Howard, a Portland firefighter who responded to the scene from his home when he heard the third alarm call.

Ashley Day, 22, who lives across the street from 20 Noyes St., which was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at 7:15 that Saturday morning, said she sees the ruined apartment house every day and can’t escape feelings of sadness. She said Tuesday night’s vigil comforted her because she felt the support of so many people.

“I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she said.

Volunteers had set up paper lanterns around the perimeter of Longfellow Park for the Vigil of Lights. The park is located just down the street from the scene of the fire.


Kathy Tosney, a neighbor, told mourners that she was emotionally devastated when she saw the fire and knew people were trapped inside. “I had never felt such a helpless feeling in my entire life,” she said.

Speaking at a small stage lit by tall candles, the Rev. Carolyn Lambert of Woodfords Congregational Church blessed a bowl of water. She asked people to shout out a word as a way to bless the water.

“Love,” someone shouted, followed by other voices in the dark: “Hope.” “Happiness.” “Always in our hearts.” “Sadness.”

Then the voice of a young girl: “I love you, Daddy.”

Audryn Summers, age 5, stood near the front, so her small voice carried far.

Standing next to her was her 3-year-old sister, Maliyah, and the girls’ mother, Ashley Summers.


Audryn and Maliyah’s father, Steven Summers of Rockland, was staying with friends at the house the night before the fire. He escaped from the blaze, jumping from the second story, and witnesses saw him rolling on the street trying to extinguish the flames on his clothes. He suffered severe burns over most of his body and died in a Boston hospital four days later.

Ashley Summers said her husband was an athletic and outgoing man who “lit up the room” whenever he entered it.

The other victims of the fire were David Bragdon Jr., 27; Ashley Thomas, 29; Christopher Conlee, 25; Maelisha Jackson, 26; and Nicole “Nikki” Finlay, 26. Bragdon, Thomas and Finlay were tenants of the apartment building. Conlee, of Portland, and Jackson, of Topsham, were visitors.

Several other tenants escaped the smoke and flames. One of those to escape, Nathan Long, said the tenants were like a family, frequently cooking family-style meals and serving as a support system for one another.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire, which destroyed the 94-year-old two-apartment house.

During Tuesday night’s ceremony, the name of each victim was called out as a large gong was struck with a mallet.

At the end of the vigil, mourners sang “Amazing Grace” and walked about a block to 20 Noyes St. The house is still standing, although the interior is destroyed and the porch is on the verge of collapsing. A chain-link fence has been installed around the perimeter of the property.

Ashley Summers helped her daughter Audryn dip a fir branch in the bowl of water that had been blessed at the vigil. The small girl approached the house and gently hung the branch on the fence. Her mother took her by her hand and led her away.


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