AUGUSTA — An apartment house fire Friday night displaced 13 residents of a five-unit building on State Street, the latest fire in a neighborhood that has had several apartment house fires in recent months.

City fire crews were joined by crews from four other communities after the fire was reported at 15 State St. shortly before 7:30 p.m.

The fire was reported by a tenant in the building, said Sgt. Vicente Morris of the Augusta Police Department.

Winthrop, Gardiner, Chelsea and Togus fire crews were called to assist as flames lept from the sides and top of the two-story clapboard building in a tightly packed neighborhood.

A cause hadn’t been determined by about 9 p.m. Friday.

He said fire crews were focusing on “trying to keep the fire from jumping” to nearby buildings, including 13 State St., which is feet away and was in danger at one point, Morris said.

An investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was on the scene, but there was no other information available Friday night.

Kris Lessard, 35, a tenant, lived in the building with his girlfriend, Mary Potter, her mother, and their two children, a 12-year-old girl and 18-year old boy.

“I’m kind of dumbfounded,” said Lessard, still wearing the red shirt from his job at the Circle K convenience store and gas station on Western Avenue, where he’d been working when he heard about the fire.

While his family got their dogs out safely, one, a chihuahua, escaped from their car when a firefighter opened the door. They were still looking for it last night.

When authorities got to the scene, “flames were higher than the building,” said Morris. The building was evacuated, he said.

Rescue crews were able to get all the tenants out of the building and no one was hurt in the fire, though one tenant, who was visibly distraught, was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

A portion of State Street was shut down as firefighters battled the fire.

The power lines to the building were cut off around 8:15 p.m. and fire crews were able to start pouring water onto the blaze, which was still visible through the sides and top of the building an hour after it had been reported.

Police and firefighters had to push back people who had gathered to watch as the water was turned on the fire.

Residents of nearby apartment buildings were also shaken by the fire.

“It’s almost scary,” said Clarence Roy, 71, of Crosby Street. “When it’s so close to your home, you never know.”

Roy was standing next to 20 State St., the site of a fire in December.

“I just hope everyone is all right,” said Vance Cyr, 46, a Laurel Street neighbor of the building, as he and his wife Natalie, also 46, watched crews battle the fire.

Natalie Cyr said their main concern was for a friend who lived in the building who is hard of hearing. They didn’t see him outside on the street, but thought he might be at church with friends.

Dave Libby, who manages the building for APEX Property Management, said the building has five units with 13 occupants.

He said the Red Cross, which was on the scene, is putting tenants up at the Super 8 Motel in Augusta.

According to Augusta city assessing records, the building is owned by State Street Properties of San Jose, Calif., which has owned it since 2006.

The neighborhood, including the nearby corner of Laurel and State streets, has been the scene of several fires over the past year.

The two most recent were in December, the one at 20 State St., which came just days after one on nearby Northern Avenue displaced 27 people.


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