WATERVILLE — A fire that caused significant damage to an apartment building on High Street Thursday was deemed to be an accidental electrical fire.

Waterville Fire Capt. Rodney Alderman on Friday said a crew remained at the scene of the fire on 11 High St. until about 11:30 p.m. The fire was called in about 6 p.m. by a resident of the building. Alderman, who was at the scene Thursday night, said the state fire marshal’s office has ruled the fire to be accidental, the result of an electrical problem on the third floor.

Crews from Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield responded to reports of the fire. Extreme heat on the third floor sent one firefighter to the hospital, where he was treated and released, and resulted in another having to be examined by Delta Ambulance.

The third floor was apparently unoccupied at the time of the fire, according to Capt. John Gromek on Thursday, who was leading the investigation. On Friday, Gromek said the fire originated in a knee wall, which is a short wall used to support rafters in timber roof construction. Knee walls are common in old houses where the ceiling on the top floor is an attic.

“At least we have an answer to it,” Gromek said.

The American Red Cross issued a news release Thursday night saying the organization’s Disaster Action Team was offering emergency aid to the three families affected by the fire. The release stated that the Red Cross would provide financial assistance and community referrals in the coming days for the seven people displaced by the fire.

Alderman said firefighters rescued a Maine coon cat, which belonged to a first-floor tenant who only provided his first name, Pete, at the scene.

Another tenant, Daniella Chabot, who called in the fire, said she was outside when it began. She was able to get her son and her dog out of the building after she went back in and noticed smoke in the stairwell.

Dozens of spectators gathered Thursday night on High Street to watch as thick, dark smoke billowed out of the brown house. Water eventually was turned on and sprayed heavily into the house’s upper stories. A ladder truck elevated firefighters to the building’s upper levels so they could break windows, spray water in and cut holes in the building with a chain saw.

The building is owned by Brown House Properties, a company based in Waterville. At the scene, Fire Chief David LaFountain said it was possible the building would be gutted. On Friday, Gromek said it seemed likely the building would be a total loss, but that determination was up to the insurance agency. He also said two pet ferrets died on the third floor.

A theft was reported Thursday night at the fire scene. Waterville police Sgt. Alden Weigelt said a person reported that her purse was missing from the scene. The call was listed at 11 p.m. Weigelt said after the call came in, an attempt to reach the caller was unsuccessful, as her voicemail was full. He said the alleged theft remains under investigation, but he did not know the specifics of the case.

Unrelated to the fire, a person who lived at the residence was arrested Thursday night on a warrant. Michael Wilson, 35, listed as a resident of 11 High St., was arrested around 6:45 p.m. Thursday. Weigelt said the arrest had nothing to do with the fire, and Wilson was arrested after police came in contact with him. The warrant was for a probation revocation.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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