Eleven people were forced from their apartments Monday night in Gardiner when a fire broke out in a four-unit apartment building at 37 Winter St.

Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said a tenant on the second floor called for help around 9 p.m., reporting light smoke and a crackling noise in the building. Firefighters found fire in a wall and Nelson said it appears the fire started in the electrical system. All tenants got out safely but were forced to find other accommodations for the night because the Fire Department had to cut off electricity and water to the building.

The American Red Cross said three families stayed with friends and relatives last night and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The agency would be able to provide assistance with clothing, food and medical needs.

“Now that we know short-term housing has been found, we will continue working (with the families) to ensure all their physical needs are met,” said Eric Lynes, disaster program manager for the Red Cross in Lewiston. “It is better to be surrounded by loved ones at a time like this.”

The building is in foreclosure, according to Gardiner city records. The owner of record, Wade Riley, could not be reached for comment. Riley has a Plano, Texas, address listed on property records.

Lynes said he could not say when or whether the families will be able to return to their homes.

“We will be a go-between because they want their personal possessions, which still remain in the home,” he said. “For a variety of reasons, we cannot say when and if they can get back (in their home). In some cases, they are not able to.”

Lynes said his agency would be an advocate for the families as they move through the recovery process.

“We’re the first on the scene, so it starts with us, but we are just one agency of many that will help provide their road to recovery,” he said.

Those involved, which include a 16-month-old child, have limited resources, making recovery a bigger challenge.

“Something like this could be devastating and take a long time to recover, given their limited resources,” he said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @JasonPafundiKJ