WATERVILLE — State and local fire investigators early Thursday evening were trying to determine the cause of a fire that damaged the first floor of a three-story apartment building at 58 Silver St.

About 29 firefighters from Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield responded to the fire, which was reported at 5:10 p.m. and appeared to have started in a first-floor living room, officials said.

Firefighters initially worried about the first-floor tenant, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, but they learned after arriving that she was taken to the hospital a few days ago, according to Waterville fire Lt. Scott Holst.

“Fire was coming out of the living room window when we arrived,” Holst said at the scene. “There was more smoke than fire.”

He said the other four apartments in the building, which is owned by Jiang Yun Ying and is believed to be about 100 years old, were damaged by smoke. The American Red cross was helping four displaced tenants late Thursday.

Fairfield firefighters left to cover the Waterville fire station as the Office of the State Fire Marshal was called to send an investigator, according to Holst. Firefighter Ryan Johnston was the primary investigator.

Third-floor tenant Peter Beach, 58, stood on the sidewalk in a bitter cold wind, holding his 4-year-old blue point Himalayan cat, China.

Beach said people told him and other tenants to get out of the building because there was a fire. The first-floor tenant, he said, has a heart condition and lost a leg to diabetes.

The building has five apartments — two on the first floor, two on the second and one on the third, he said, adding that one of the second-floor apartments was vacant.

“I’ve been here 4 1/2 to 5 years,” Beach said. “This is the second fire I’ve been through. When I was living in Oakland in the mid-’90s, there was a fire on Pleasant Street.”

As his cat started squirming in his arms, Beach said the feline was OK but doesn’t like to be outdoors.

“She’s getting really upset,” he said.

A firefighter went upstairs and retrieved Beach’s cat carrier and Beach put the cat into it, after which he was told that employees at Studio 61, a hair salon across the street, had invited them to go inside to get warm.

Meanwhile, James Derosier, 29, and Carlos Santana, 26, who were watching firefighters work, said they were in a second-floor apartment visiting a friend’s mother when they realized there was a fire, so they went around pounding on doors to get people out of the building.

Derosier recalled the instant he knew the building was on fire.

“I went to get my phone off the charger in the living room, and smoke was rolling through the floorboards,” Derosier said. “I went to get my friend’s mother out. We brought her downstairs, and someone at Studio 61 called the Fire Department.”

Santana said he banged on the door of the first-floor apartment, but no one answered, so he kicked in the door and smoke poured out.

Animal Control Officer Chris Martinez arrived to retrieve a Pomeranian dog that had been in the apartment building.

Waterville police blocked off Silver Street as firefighters worked at the scene. A Delta Ambulance crew also stood by. Spectators stood shivering on sidewalks, watching the goings-on.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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