WATERVILLE — Tenants of a three-story apartment building on Silver Street are frightened after authorities say two fires were intentionally set minutes apart Sunday night, damaging the five-unit building and destroying a pickup truck on Elm Street about 100 yards away.

Janette Jones, 59, lives on the first floor of the building at 58 Silver St., just across the hallway from a common closet where the fire was set. She has only one leg and is in a wheelchair and said she has had five heart attacks and a mini-stroke. She’s nervous about the fact that there was a truck fire and a fire in her building within such a short period of time.

She said the smoke alarm outside in the hallway had been going on and off all weekend, and she called police Friday night to alert them. On Sunday night, she had nodded off and woke to see all the firetrucks and someone kicking at the door. Firefighters came in and helped her outside and gave her a blanket, she said.

“I’m in this wheelchair and I’m scared,” she said.

State and local fire officials, as well as Waterville police, are investigating both fires. Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office said the fires were classified as arson.

“Both fires are probably within 100 yards or so,” Grimes said Monday. “At this time we don’t have anything conclusive to say they are connected. However, we’re examining the possibility that they are connected just because of proximity and the timing.”

He said there was moderate damage to the apartment building, which is located at the corner of Silver Place.

At 10:44 p.m. Sunday, police were called to 43 Elm St. to investigate a vehicle fire and found a red 2011 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck engulfed in flames, according to Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey. Five minutes later, at 10:49 p.m., police got a call about the fire at 58 Silver St., he said.

Rumsey said the pickup truck was destroyed, and officers alerted residents of the apartment building and helped them outside.

“In the Silver Street fire, we had officers respond and a number of people were still inside the apartment building,” he said. “Our officers entered and knocked on doors and woke people up and escorted them from the building to outside.”

Everyone got out of the building safely, including a man who climbed down a second story balcony, Rumsey said.

“Certainly, I think it is concerning that there were two fires that close in time and that close in distance,” he said. “We are glad there were no injuries and loss of life.”

The apartment fire started in the closet inside the front entrance to the building, Rumsey said. State fire investigators and Waterville police Detective Dave Caron investigated, along with city fire officials.

Waterville Fire Department Chief David LaFountain said fire also was found in the stairway of the apartment building, which had smoke in it.

He said a stairway fire is unusual.

“There’s really nothing in a stairway except maybe a light fixture, and usually that’s somebody trying to trap somebody inside the building, typically,” LaFountain said. “That’s the way out.”

LaFountain, who is recovering from foot surgery, was not at the fire Sunday night but said the night was very busy.

“Both fires are suspicious and the fire marshal is looking into both of them,” he said.

Firefighters arrived at the scene of the truck fire at 10:52 p.m. and cleared the scenes of that and the apartment fire at 12:45 a.m. Monday, he said.

Monday afternoon, state fire investigators Ken MacMaster and Jeremy Damren were at the apartment building on Silver Street.

“We’re still talking to a bunch of people,” MacMaster said.

On the second floor of the apartment building, tenant Dora Turcotte, 58, said she was away for Easter when the fire occurred Sunday and learned about it from her upstairs neighbor.

“This is scary,” Turcotte said. “I am worried.”

The front hallway Monday afternoon smelled heavily of smoke, and the wall was blackened around the closet where the fire was set. Inside the closet, papers on the floor were charred.

Meanwhile, over on Elm Street, a muddy parking lot was blackened where the pickup truck had burned Sunday night. Broken glass and other debris were still visible on the ground, which had been mostly cleaned up. The lot is behind 43 Elm, where Flo’s Flower Cart formerly was housed.

Paula Fundaro, 65, lives in a nearby apartment building overlooking the fire site. She said she called 911 when she saw the truck burning late Sunday.

“I’m saying, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God,’ and it was popping,” Fundaro recalled Monday as she stood on her porch holding her 3-year-old great granddaughter, Allana Cleaves, who lives with her.

“I think the whole city of Waterville was here,” Fundaro said. “I swear to God, it was like Christmas. Fire officials called us last night. Today, the fire marshal came over and talked to me, and he knew I was really nervous. He was a wicked nice guy.”

Fundaro’s grandson, Dalton Bowman, 17, was at her apartment Monday and said it was his friend’s parents’ pickup truck that burned Sunday. The friend had been visiting Fundaro and was in her apartment when the fire broke out.

“My granddaughter said to him, ‘Oh, my God, your truck’s on fire,'” Fundaro recalled.

Fundaro called 911 to report the fire, and police and firefighters were there within a short time, she said.

“They were fast, they worked fast,” she said. “They were good.”

Bowman said he spoke with his friend whose parents owned the truck, and he said he did not have any enemies who would burn it.

This is the second fire in a week in the Waterville area that fire officials are calling suspicious. In Oakland March 19, fire destroyed a mobile home at 431 Trafton Road in Oakland near the Waterville city line. The homeowners were away for the winter, and the fire was started outside the home. Grimes said it was a case of arson.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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