WATERVILLE — A disabled woman displaced in an apartment fire Saturday on Front Street says she is thankful and touched by an outpouring of people who have called to ask how they can help her.

Cheryl Jack, 56, has been staying at the Fireside Inn & Suites on Main Street in Waterville since the fire, which started in Apartment 2 on the first floor, beneath her second-floor unit.

Jack’s apartment and all her belongings were damaged by smoke, and the Red Cross put her up in the motel for three nights and gave her an extra night Tuesday, according to Jack’s case manager, Ashley Whittemore, of Cornerstone Behavioral Health, whom Jack authorized to speak for her.

Jack, a former business owner and health care worker, suffers from physical problems as a result of having injured her back 13 years ago while moving a patient. She also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and lives with a lot of anxiety. Her 5-year-old, silver-gray service cat, Oliver Grey, bit a firefighter while the firefighter was rescuing him and had to be placed in quarantine at the Waterville Humane Society on Webb Road.

Jack was distraught over being separated from her cat, but a veterinarian who has his records confirmed he was up-to-date on his shots, so Jack got the cat back Monday afternoon.

“I am overwhelmed and just so blessed and so grateful and people have just been calling like crazy,” Jack said Monday afternoon, just before going to retrieve her cat.

Sgt. Ken Grimes, of the state fire marshal’s office, said Tuesday that the fire’s cause remains undetermined; but he said it started on a mattress in the bedroom of Apartment 2 on the first floor.

Waterville fire Capt. John Gromek said the tenants in that apartment had removed the smoke detector, which was fairly new, in that unit, but smoke detectors elsewhere in the building were working during the fire. Jack said, however, her own smoke detector did not go off during the fire, but it had worked a few days prior to that.

Gromek said he does not know why the tenants took down the detector, but people commonly do so if they are cooking and smoke sets the alarm off. People should not do that, he said.

“They shouldn’t take it down to begin with,” Gromek said. “They should try to eliminate smoke from the area by fanning it or opening the window.”

State law requires apartment building owners to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and tenants are required to keep them maintained and working, according to Gromek.

The apartment building at 80 Front St., at the corner of Union Street, just down the street from the fire station, is two-and-a-half stories and has six apartments. Gromek said the tenants in the first-floor apartment are staying with relatives and may not return to the apartment because it is so damaged and needs to be repaired. While the Fire Department released Jack’s apartment back to her, she and Whittemore said it is so damaged by smoke and filled with soot that when they visited it Monday, they were only there about 30 minutes and they had trouble breathing and had to leave.

The owner of the 80 Front St. building is Mark Plummer, of Cumberland, according to city assessing records.

Jack said Plummer had not contacted her but she heard her apartment was scheduled to be cleaned.

Meanwhile, Whittemore said that because of Jack’s disabilities, she really needs to have a first-floor apartment and they have been searching for one, without success.

“With her handicap, the second floor isn’t really manageable,” Whittemore said Tuesday. “We’ve been trying to get her into another apartment, but finding a first-floor apartment in the area is not an easy thing to do.”

Jack had new furniture, including a sofa and a bed, that was purchased with money from the city’s Haines Charity Trust, a fund for women in need. Jack said they are severely damaged by smoke.

“I don’t know how to get smoke out of pillows and beds,” she said.

People have been calling to offer clothes and other items to Jack, and a room at Assistance Plus in Benton has been set aside for that purpose, according to Whittemore. Assistance Plus is at 1604 Benton Ave.

Jack said that while she was thankful people called to help, she became anxious and it was difficult for her to speak to them, so she asks that they speak with Whittemore.

“The outpouring of offers has just been so beautiful and such a blessing,” Jack said. Whittemore said anyone with questions may call her work cellphone at 649-7884.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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