GARDINER — Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said a working sprinkler system extinguished an early morning fire on Water Street in Gardiner and saved both lives and property.

Nelson said firefighters went to the building on the northwest corner of Water Street and Maine Avenue shortly after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, following notification from a security company.

“They could see light smoke coming from behind a door,” he said. When they opened the second-floor apartment door, they saw a fire on the stove, and that’s when the building’s sprinkler system activated and put out the fire. It’s also when the tenants in the apartment woke up and came to see what was happening, Nelson said.

“The sprinkler system saved lives. It did its job,” Nelson said. “The stove is ruined, but that’s easy (to replace).”

The site of this fire is only a couple hundred feet from the site of a July 2015 fire that destroyed 235 Water St. and it damaged buildings on either side of it.

“At the press conference after the 2015 debacle, I said had that building had a sprinkler system, there would have been no press conference,” he said.

Nearly eight months before the 2015 fire, Royce Watson bought the building where the fire occurred Tuesday.

“It was a distressed property,” Watson said, “and it had a fairly good price, so that enabled me to update the sprinkler and fire alarm systems.”

The building has four retail units on the ground floor and eight apartments on the upper two floors.

Because the building already had a sprinkler system, he said, he had to either make it operational or remove it. He opted to fix it.

The apartment where the fire broke out sustained some smoke damage and the stove will have to be replaced, he said.

Watson, whose company, Wilcris LLC, owns other rental properties in the region, said the water from the sprinkler went into the unit below — his office — soaking his computer and some paperwork and bills on his desk.

While he said tenants share the responsibility for safety, he said he’s glad the system saved the building and that everyone is OK.

“I can’t thank him enough for his efforts on the sprinkler system,” Nelson said. “That saved the block.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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