GARDINER — The cause of the fire that destroyed half of a 28-unit apartment building on Highland Avenue hasn’t yet been determined, but efforts are underway by state agencies and members of the community to help the roughly 30 tenants who lived in the senior housing complex.

The fire reported around 11:40 p.m. Wednesday heavily damaged the south end of Highland Terrace, but the back end of the building only sustained smoke and some water damage.

As a result, Gardiner city officials at a resource fair for the tenants Friday said the needs range from some people being able to recover most their belongings to a woman who escaped with nothing more than the nightgown she was wearing.

No one was seriously injured in the fire, but one woman was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta for smoke inhalation.

The family and partner of the woman, Kimberly Poland, visited the resource fair at Gardiner Regional Middle School.

Poland’s partner, Dennis M. Corson, 54, said they lived in a unit two doors down from where the fire started. When he saw the flames, he opened the window and firefighters came running to help.

He said they helped move Poland, who has cerebral palsy, out of the apartment’s window after they helped him out.

“She was afraid she was going to die. She literally was afraid she was going to die,” said Corson, who has been sleeping at the hospital with Poland.

Poland’s niece, Becky Daly, of Durham, said her aunt is doing well and will make a full recovery. The company that owns and manages the property, C.B. Mattson, the hospital, the Maine State Housing Authority and other organizations have been helping try to find housing for Poland, Daly said.

“Everyone has been overwhelming helpful about everything. It’s just finding the right place for her and her needs,” she said.

Poland’s sister, Linda Daly Frey, of Freeport, said her sister is very appreciative of all the help she’s received. Poland has to stay at the hospital until she finds a place to live that can accommodate her needs, Daly Frey said.

Gardiner Mayor Thomas Harnett said he’s told people who want to help to wait until the needs are identified. The city and the United Way of Kennebec Valley are organizing an online fundraising page for the victims of the fire.

The American Red Cross of Maine is putting 14 of the tenants up in local motels through Monday and have distributed vouchers for food and clothing, said John Lamb, the spokesman for the American Red Cross of Maine. Lamb said Friday afternoon that the organization had met with 23 of the 26 residents to assess their needs. A large number of the tenants needed medication or other medical equipment, he said.

Todd Mattson, an owner of Farmingdale-based C.B Mattson, said Thursday that the company found housing for some tenants in its other properties in the area, and others were staying with family or in hotels.

Along with Gardiner’s fire department, firefighting crews from Augusta, Togus, Farmingdale, Pittston and Randolph, and Winthrop Ambulance Services and Delta Ambulance responded.

Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Office of State Fire Marshal said Friday afternoon that investigators haven’t determined a cause of the fire and the investigation was still ongoing. He expected an update on the investigation Monday.

Grimes said investigators are still trying to track down all of the tenants to make sure they have all available information in order to classify the fire.

The building had a working fire alarm system and self-closing doors, Grimes said.

“Kudos to the landlord and the building owners for making sure those items were in proper working order,” he said. “It certainly helps, especially in the type of residency that that building was, in alerting residents.”

The building didn’t have a sprinkler system, but that wasn’t required when it was built in 1985, Grimes said.

Rich McCarthy, assistant fire marshal, said safety codes require apartment buildings, meaning buildings with three or more residential units, to have sprinkler systems installed unless there are firewalls separating units.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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