WATERVILLE — Cheryl Jack finds herself in a situation she never dreamed would occur and over which she has little control.

Physically disabled and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder to begin with, the 56-year-old Waterville woman was the victim Saturday of an apartment building fire at 80 Front St. that not only made her apartment uninhabitable, but also took away the one thing she relies on most to keep her feeling stable — her service cat, Oliver Grey. She is anxious to get him back.

“They’ve quarantined my cat, Oliver Grey, because they said he bit a firefighter,” an emotional Jack said Sunday. “He’s de-clawed and has never been outside in his life. You don’t ever approach a cat, especially in a stressful situation, toward the face. You grab always the nape of the neck, and it’s impossible to get scratched or bitten.”

Jack says she is grateful to firefighters for finding and rescuing her 5-year-old, silver-gray cat that hid in her second-floor apartment after she and others were evacuated from the building at 80 Front St. Fire officials confirmed the cat bit a firefighter when he tried to retrieve it.

The Red Cross put Jack up in the Fireside Inn & Suites on Main Street for three nights, but she does not know where she will stay as of Tuesday, as she has no friends or relatives in the area and only $50 left over from the Red Cross for food and other necessities. She has been eating sparingly to make the money last, she said.

“I was treated for smoke inhalation at Inland Hospital, and they were just so good to me there,” Jack said. “I have only the clothes on my back, and I can’t wash them because I have nothing else to wear. I don’t even have a sweater.”

Fire officials determined the fire started just before 2 p.m. Saturday in a first-floor bedroom in Apartment 2 beneath Jack’s apartment, but they had not yet determined the cause as of Sunday.

Investigators from the Maine State Fire Marshal’s office were called to the 2 1/2 story, 6-unit apartment building Saturday afternoon to help determine a cause but did not reach a conclusion.

“It’s still under investigation,” Waterville fire Captain Shawn Esler said Sunday. “At this point in time, because we are unable to determine an exact cause, we really rely on the fire marshal’s office to fully investigate the best that they can.”

A page sent to state Fire Investigator Ken McMaster was not immediately returned Sunday afternoon.

Besides Jack, two other people in the building were displaced and are staying with relatives.

Fire Captain John Gromek, who was at the scene Saturday, said firefighters extinguished the fire quickly. The bedroom where it started was damaged by fire and smoke, and there was minor smoke damage to the rest of that apartment as well as to Jack’s on the second floor, according to fire officials. About 20 firefighters from Waterville and Winslow worked at the scene, and Fairfield firefighters covered the city’s station. The building is located at the corner of Front and Union streets, not far from the fire station on College Avenue.

Jack is nervous about not having her cat with her and is worried about the feline. She is afraid the cat may be traumatized, she said. She has a case worker with whom she has spoken, but she also is worried about where she will live and how she will replace her furniture, which was purchased for her through the city’s Haines Charity Trust, a special fund for women in need.

“My furniture is going to be a complete loss,” she said. “I had a beautiful brand new bed and beautiful furniture, and I’ve had it since mid-September,” she said. “I don’t have renter’s insurance. I can’t afford it.”

Jack said she worked hard all her life in business and as a health care worker until she “blew out two disks in her lumbar spine” while moving a patient 13 years ago. She now has not only a back problem, she said, but also a left leg and foot that are numb, osteoarthritis in both knees and a right knee so non-functioning she has problems with her right hip. She spent her life helping people, not asking for help herself.

“I’m not an opportunist,” she said. “I have a very difficult time asking for help of any type. If I have a flat tire and somebody stops to help, I’m the type who says, ‘No, it’s OK. I’m fine.’ If it means I go without something, that’s who I am. I’ve been a very independent person all my life. It kills me to be a needy person, but unfortunately, this is where I am.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.