An electrical inspector is expected to assist in the investigation of a fire that began in Dresden early Sunday morning and left 13 people homeless.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in a news release the inspector is expected to be at the site Tuesday to help investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

The blaze forced 11 occupants from the building and heavily damaged 633 Gardiner Road. The large, barn-like structure previously served as an inn with a restaurant and bar and later as a church.

According to a preliminary report, the fire started in the rear of the building near the electrical entrance to the building. That location also was the designated smoking area for residents of Freedom Center, a nonprofit drug and mental health recovery center operating there since about July 2015.

In the meantime, the American Red Cross of Maine has been assisting those who lost their home.

“Last night, we provided hotel accommodations for all of the affected clients, and our casework team, along with the clients’ own caseworkers, are looking into longer term options,” said Larry French, disaster program manager for the Red Cross. “We do know that some of the residents are going to stay with friends temporarily, and some are moving to other hotels closer to their families or friends, but most have begun looking into longer term housing options as well.”

French said that the American Red Cross, Casework, Mental Health and Health Services teams will continue to work with those displaced to ensure that their basic needs are met.

The Freedom Center provided private bedrooms and private bathrooms to those in recovery. These types of facilities are in demand across the state and are often filled to capacity, so it remains unclear where the Freedom Center’s residents will be able to find accommodations.

Eric Lynes, also a disaster program manager of the American Red Cross, said via email Monday, “Once the initial response is completed, the Red Cross follows up with clients to help with a recovery plan and help identify any unmet needs/gaps in their recovery. This Dresden incident took place yesterday, so the follow-up process is still in the early phase. Finding alternate housing is generally met with some challenges.”

More than five dozen firefighters from Dresden and 10 other communities responded to the blaze, which was contained to the attic and roof, according to Dresden Fire Chief Steve Lilly. However, he said that the water damage to both floors and the fact that part of the roof caved in might force it to be torn down.

Lilly also said that once the fire was out, firefighters were able to retrieve some personal items for residents, including keys, medications and wallets.

Jan Burns, executive director of the Freedom Center, was not on site at the time of the fire, but her dog, Snickers, was in the building and died. A phone number for her was unavailable.

The two-story log building at one point had rooms upstairs with a dining room, bar and kitchen on the first floor and bathrooms down in the basement.

Records at the Dresden Town Office show that the two-story structure The Dresden Inn Inc., operated as an inn with a restaurant and bar into the 1980s. It was erected in the mid 1970s.

In 1988, then-owner Dr. Robert Hiatt sold it to V & W Associates.

In 1995, the property was sold again and used by church groups.

The Freedom Center bought it in February 2015.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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