AUGUSTA — When firefighter/paramedic Mic Poirier arrived with other firefighters at a massive fire which would rapidly destroy a large, fully-occupied apartment building at 36 Northern Ave., he disregarded the potential dangers of a wall of flames engulfing the entire rear of the building and the black smoke billowing out the front, to go inside and head immediately for the second floor.

He knew exactly where he had to go —the apartment where, on an earlier rescue call, he had helped provide care to a woman with a disability whom he knew would be unable to get out of her second floor apartment on her own because she had a hard time getting around, according to Fire Chief Roger Audette.

Once there he forced the door open and found the woman in her smoke-filled apartment, flames consuming the back porches just outside, and pulled her to safety by himself. She was taken to the hospital and later released.

Poirier remained at the early-morning fire, which ultimately burned the 18-unit, four-story apartment building into hardly more than a pile of gray ashes, to help his fellow C-shift firefighters and three Augusta police officers rescue other apartment residents and fight the blaze.

“Mic jumped out of bed, heard the address and had in his head already exactly where he was going to go,” Audette said. “When he arrived, he got out of the truck and headed right to the burning building. He found the person trapped inside her apartment unable to get out. Mic, by himself, grabbed the civilian and pulled her out to safety, which is not an easy task.”

Audette said he’s never, in his 28 years of fighting fires, seen a firefighter turn thought into action as quickly as Poirier did that morning.

Poirier received an Augusta Fire Department Medal of Valor for his actions during the massive blaze at an Augusta City Council meeting Thursday night. The other firefighters and police officers who helped saved lives that morning were also recognized by officials Thursday.

Three other Augusta firefighters who Fire Chief Roger Audette said saved three people from a burning apartment complex on Highland Avenue in Gardiner while responding to a mutual aid call there in February were also recognized. Lt. Art True and firefighter/paramedics Rich Beaudoin and Dan Freeman were also awarded the Augusta Fire Department Medal of Valor.

Augusta sent five firefighters to help at the Gardiner blaze after the call came in at 2 a.m. while most of the residents were sleeping.

The center hallways of the burning building at the Highland Terrace apartment complex were full of smoke, trapping some of the occupants, Audette said. So True, Beaudoin and Freeman, assigned to search an entire, 14-unit wing of the apartment complex, had to search apartments from the outside windows. While doing so they found an elderly couple trapped in their apartment. They rescued the couple by pulling them through a window. They continued searching, slogging through February’s deep snow which surrounded the building, and found a woman who was disabled and also trapped in her apartment and pulled her to safety through a window.

“The easy part was getting them out the window,” Audette said. “The challenging part was getting them through three-four-five feet of snow to safety.”

Altogether, three police officers and 12 firefighters were recognized by councilors Thursday for their actions in rescuing people from the two recent major fires.

Police officers Benjamin Murtiff, Kyle Sheridan and Sgt. Eric Lloyd and the C shift crew of firefighters were recognized by councilors for their actions in the massive Dec. 5, 2014, fire that destroyed the 18-unit apartment building at 36 Northern Ave.

“The efforts of the first arriving Augusta Police Officers and Augusta Firefighters saved lives in what I would say was the most hostile fire environment I have ever seen in my 28 years in the fire service,” Audette said in a memo about the recognitions.

He said when public safety workers arrived the entire back of the building was engulfed in flames, three nearby cars were on fire, and three large propane tanks were venting gas because of the extreme heat from the fire. He said the first priority at the scene was to search for and rescue the occupants, so little effort was made, at first, to put out the fire, which allowed it to grow even larger as they worked to rescue residents.

The firefighters of C shift were presented a Meritorious Unit Citation which Audette said would be permanently displayed at Hartford Fire Station.

That crew included Battalion Chief Steve Leach, Lt. Brian Chamberlin, and firefighter/paramedics William Lord, Nicholas Edgar, James Baldwin, Jason McKinnon, Dustin Freeman, Poirier and Nicholas Whitmore.

The three police officers already have received awards of valor from the Police Department, according to Police Chief Robert Gregoire, and each has received a Maine Chiefs of Police Association Lifesaving Award for action in the Northern Avenue fire. Gregoire said the three will also be recognized in May with American Red Cross Real Heroes Awards.

Gregoire and Deputy Chief Jared Mills said the three were the first on the scene and helped people evacuate the burning building.

“They converged and worked in concert together to remove people safely from the building,” Mills said. “We’re very proud of our officers and the fire department as well.”

All 23 tenants in the building at the time of the 36 Northern Ave. fire escaped the flames, and 10 of them were taken, by Delta Ambulance, to the hospital. However, their injuries were relatively minor. Numerous other local fire departments also responded to the scene to help battle the fire, as did off-duty Augusta firefighters.

Some 30 tenants were displaced by the Gardiner fire, but none suffered serious injuries.

Firefighters, many in their formal dress uniforms, others in their “on duty” uniforms; police; and their family and friends filled council chambers at Augusta City Center for the recognition ceremony Thursday, giving the rescuers multiple standing ovations.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.