GARDINER — A Wednesday night fire heavily damaged half of a 28-unit senior apartment building on Highland Avenue, displacing more than 30 residents.

No one was killed or seriously injured in the fire that appeared to have started in a first-floor apartment near the building’s common area and then spread to the south wing, Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said.

One woman was taken to the hospital with what Nelson described as minor injuries.

The fire was reported by a 911 call around 11:40 p.m., Nelson said. Along with Gardiner’s fire department, firefighting crews from Augusta, Togus, Farmingdale, Pittston and Randolph, and Winthrop Ambulance Services and Delta Ambulance also responded, he said.

Gardiner’s four initial responders and police helped some people escape from the building, Nelson said.

“They just really stepped up,” he said.

Nelson said the fire didn’t spread much, and although the department had to return once overnight and again Thursday morning, damage was isolated to the wing closest to the road. It took a couple of hours to knock down the fire initially, he said.

The south end of the building is a total loss, but the wing away from the road sustained only smoke and possibly some water damage, Nelson said.

Investigators with the Office of State Fire Marshal were on the scene Wednesday morning.

The building, Highland Terrace, is owned by C.B. Mattson, a Farmingdale-based company that manages about 25 family and senior housing buildings throughout the state, according to its website.

Todd Mattson, an owner of the company, said about 30 people lived in the apartment building for seniors. The company found housing for some tenants in its other properties in the area, and others are staying with family or were put up in hotels by the American Red Cross, he said.

Mattson said the response from the American Red Cross and neighbors who opened their homes to some tenants or brought coffee was eye opening.

“It was just incredible. It was really a great effort, and it was nice to witness it,” he said.

Mattson also said that all the fire crews did a phenomenal job putting out the blaze. The building was insured, and Mattson said the company is figuring out whether to preserve part of the building. There were working smoke detectors, Nelson said.

The Red Cross met with 20 of the residents and found local hotels for 14 of them, said John Lamb, the spokesman for the American Red Cross of Maine. Because of the number of people and the needs of some of them, the Red Cross has 10 people working with the tenants, Lamb said, more than in a typical fire. Many needed help getting medications and other health services, he said. The organization also provided vouchers for food and clothing, Lamb said.

People wanting to help can donate to the organization’s general disaster fund through the American Red Cross of Maine’s website, he said.

“This has been a challenging year both in terms of numbers of large fires and, unfortunately, the loss of life we’ve seen dating back to the fall,” Lamb said.

Greg Chapman, 63, who lives nearby on Highland Avenue, said sirens woke him up at around 11:50 p.m., and he saw 20- to 30-foot-high flames coming out of the top of the building.

A few of the tenants were struggling to get through the snow to a house next door to take shelter, so Chapman said he and other neighbors assisted a few elderly women who were unable to move in the snow.

For a couple of the women, Chapman and others used curtains from an apartment to lift them across the snow, he said.

“Everybody was helping out with the elderly ladies getting them up to the house,” Chapman said.

Another neighbor, Christine Szigeti-Johnson, 76, said the scene was scary, but she’s glad no one was killed.

She heard Thursday from one friend who was living in the apartment building and is now staying at a motel in Augusta.

“They’re OK, but they’re devastated. I can’t imagine,” Szigeti-Johnson said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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