WATERVILLE — Megan Hale stood shivering in the cold Tuesday morning on Paris Street, staring at the 20-foot-high pile of rubble that once was the five-unit apartment building she lived in.

Hale, 23, lost everything in the Monday fire that left 12 people, including three children, homeless.

“It’s kind of like shock,” she said. “It comes and goes. It just starts pouring over you — the emotions.”

About 40 firefighters from three communities fought the blaze at 15 Paris St. in the cold and wind Monday but were unable to save the building. An excavator razed the remains and the rubble will be removed, according to fire Chief David LaFountain.

Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Office of the State Fire Marshal said the fire is not deemed suspicious.

“We’re listing it right now, preliminarily, as a human-element fire,” Grimes said Tuesday afternoon. “Human element in this particular instance does not mean intentionally set.”


Grimes said much of the fire scene could not be examined because of the damage, but investigators are interviewing witnesses and weeding through that information. He called it a “witness driven” investigation.

“We haven’t decided if it’s accidental or not,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hale said firefighters were able to snatch photographs off her apartment walls and her dresser, including one she had on her nightstand. She took the frame off to prevent damage to the photo and behind the photo was a picture of her father, a former Southington, Conn., firefighter who died four years ago. He was wearing his firefighter’s dress uniform in the photo. She had no idea the picture was there and said she considered finding it a gift.

“Everything that was my father’s was in there,” Hale said, pointing to the rubble. “We come from a family of firefighters. That’s why this is so ironic.”

Hale was working at Dunkin’ Donuts in Augusta when she got a call informing her that her apartment building was on fire. Her brother, Brandon Hale, a volunteer firefighter for the town of Fairfield, heard the fire call and immediately recognized the Paris Street address as the place where Megan; their mother, Peggi Jewett, 51; and Megan’s boyfriend, Chad Damboise, 24, lived on the first floor.

Jewett said she is thankful no one was hurt in the fire and that her son is able to house them at his home in Winslow until they find a new place.


“We’re alive,” Jewett, said. “Nobody died.”

Jewett, who works for Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street in Waterville, said she, Hale and Damboise had moved from Connecticut to Waterville in 2013 and lived on the third floor of the apartment building. On Feb. 1, they moved to the first floor and she moved everything she had in storage to the apartment.

“I have lost so many things,” Jewett said. “My parents are both passed, and I had stuff of theirs. But I have my kids. I’m very, very lucky. People are being wonderful. This community is amazing.”

A former volunteer firefighter for the town of Harwinton, Conn., Damboise, an ironworker, was working in Portland when he learned about the fire. He immediately headed to Waterville.

LaFountain said local fire officials worked with fire marshal investigators and Waterville police detectives to determine a cause. Keystone Management, which manages the property, brought in an outside investigator.

“The insurance company usually hires an investigation company to come in and take a look,” LaFountain said Tuesday morning.


Some tenants were able to get their dogs and cats out of the building before it was too late, but a couple on the first floor lost two cats.

“I saw one fatal,” LaFountain said, referring to the remains of a cat he saw in front of a couch. “I suspect that probably the second one was in the same state. Cats tend to hide behind the refrigerators or something. It’s not unusual that we find cats later on.”

He said the American Red Cross put people up at the Fireside Inn for three days and that he was told Keystone has other apartments available for people to move into.

“The question is, of course, the price range — decisions to be made like that — and they’ve lost everything, so they’re hurting for whatever they weren’t wearing,” he said.

Eric Lynes, disaster program manager for Central & Mid-Coast Maine Red Cross based in Lewiston, was at the fire scene Monday.

Lynes said Tuesday that Red Cross officials immediately helped displaced tenants with physical and emotional needs Monday. On Tuesday, they were working on plans for housing.


Lynes said he was not aware of any one site that is collecting clothing, furniture or other donations for the tenants, but typically a good Samaritan, social service agency, faith-based group or bank will spearhead such an effort.

“This seems to be an ongoing challenge that happens,” he said, referring to the time directly after a fire when people want to donate items but do not know where to take them as a specific site has not been identified.

Generally though, people may donate directly to the Red Cross, which spent up to $6,000 Monday on assistance for the Paris Street tenants, according to Lynes. He said donors may call the Red Cross at 874-1192 or send donations to American Red Cross, 475 Pleasant St., Lewiston, ME 04240.

Lynes said anything from a $2 donation to $10 adds up and provides tremendous help for fire victims. Those unable to donate financially also might help by being Red Cross volunteers, who are always needed, he said.

Paris Street was busy Tuesday morning as motorists drove by, inspecting the large pile of rubble. Some people stopped to ask Hale, Jewett and Damboise what they needed for clothing or other items and how they could donate.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Paul Carl, 49, of Pine Street, told them.


Carl, whose house is at the corner of Paris Street, said people who formerly lived in the neighborhood have been reminiscing about the house and the area in general.

“A lot of my friends grew up in this neighborhood, and they were all on Facebook last night, talking about the memories,” Carl said. “A lot of memories in that house. Lot of memories on this street.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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