DRESDEN — Eleven people escaped an early morning fire Sunday at a transitional home.

The fire at the Freedom Center, a drug and mental health recovery center, was reported at about 3:30 a.m., according to Dresden Fire Chief Steve Lilly.

Lilly was one of the first firefighters on the scene at 633 Gardiner Road. When he arrived, the fire was heavy at the rear of the building and coming out of the roof.

“The initial call said there was fire at the back of the building with flames showing at the roof,” Lilly said Sunday afternoon at Dresden’s fire station. “We had heavy black smoke pushing out of the eaves at the front of the building, so at that point I knew there was fire in the attic.”

Lilly said between 50 and 70 responders from Dresden, Wiscasset, Richmond, Boothbay, Alna, Jefferson, Woolwich, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Gardiner, Pittston and Edgecomb helped get the blaze under control in about two hours.

“We had a small water problem at the beginning, because we didn’t have enough tank trucks from our mutual aid partners. That put a little bit of delay on suppression of the fire,” Lilly said.

The fire was contained to the attic and roof, Lilly said. The second floor sustained considerable water damage and parts of the roof caved in on it. The first floor sustained water and smoke damage.

“I would say due to the amount of water damage and the roof burning like it did, I believe it will have to be torn down,” he said.

When Lilly arrived on the scene and assessed the situation, his first thought was to have crews do a primary search. No people were found in the house. At first, officials thought there were 13 people inside at the time of the fire, but after 45 minutes at the scene, it was determined that two residents were not at the center at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported.

The center’s residents have been placed in temporary lodging by the American Red Cross, Lilly said.

The state fire marshal office was at the scene and will continue to investigate the cause of the fire early this week. Lilly said there was no obvious cause of the fire.

Freedom Center executive director Jan Burns lived at the residence, but was away for the weekend at the time of the fire. Her dog, Snickers, was in the house at the time and did not survive. Burns could not be reached for comment.

Lilly said once the fire was under control, crews tried to cover as much of the residents’ belongings with tarp as possible. The residents who remained at the scene were telling firefighters where things were, like keys, medications and wallets.

“We got a lot of the personal belongings out, and the people were able to get their medication back,” he said.

The building is one of Dresden’s biggest, Lilly said. The Freedom Center was granted a business permit in July 2015 to operate as a nonprofit recovery center.

The facility provides private bedrooms and private bathrooms to people in recovery. These types of facilities are in demand across the state and are often filled to capacity, so it is unclear where the Freedom Center’s residents will ultimately end up.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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