WATERVILLE — The Office of Maine State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of a fire late Saturday night that damaged a duplex on Green Street in the city’s South End, displacing two people.

Firefighters were called to 34-36 Green St. at 10:47 p.m. as smoke was coming out of the duplex and firefighters went into the unit at 34, according to fire Chief Shawn Esler, who was at the scene.

“No one was home at the time of the fire, no one was injured, no firefighters were injured,” he said around midnight. “We did call the fire marshal’s office.”

Firefighters struck a second alarm to call crews from Winslow, Oakland, Fairfield and the Skowhegan Fire Department’s Rapid Intervention Team. Central Maine Power Co. and Delta Ambulance were at the scene, where houses are situated close together and firefighters worked in temperatures hovering around 30 degrees.

“From what I understand, damage was extensive but confined to the building of origin,” Esler said of the unit at 34 Green St.

The duplex is owned by former City Councilor Roland Hallee, who also is the city’s election warden. Hallee and his wife, Joan, live just behind the duplex on Kennebec Street.

“This is where I was born and brought up,” Roland Hallee said as he stood in the road in front of the duplex. “This house has been in my family for 83 years. My grandfather bought this house in 1936 when the Lockwood Duchess mill was going through tough times. Lockwood owned all of these houses. My grandfather passed it on to my dad and then he passed it to me and my brothers.”

The Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street, formerly part of the Lockwood complex, is a stone’s throw away from the duplex. Water Street runs parallel to Green Street.

Hallee said he had just finished watching a hockey game on television late Saturday and went to bed when his wife came in to report someone was pounding on a door saying there was a fire at the duplex.

He said a couple lives in unit 36 and a single man lives in unit 34, but was away from home. However, a homeless couple had been staying with him and reportedly were to leave the duplex Saturday morning.

“There should be no one in there right now,” Hallee said.

He said the heat source in the duplex is forced hot air. When he arrived at the scene, there was smoke coming out of the attic vents on both sides of the two-story duplex, he said.

Esler, who has spoken publicly recently about the lack of an adequate number of firefighters responding to fires within the first several minutes, said 21 firefighters were at the scene Saturday night.

“This call was in the evening when we have the most availability of call firefighters,” he said. “It’s a great turnout, not only from our call force, but from other communities. We got down here real quick, was able to determine no one was in the building, did an aggressive interior fire attack and knocked it down very quickly.”

Esler pointed out an “accountability system” that was being used at the fire scene Saturday that helps track where firefighters and equipment are at all times at a fire scene. Winslow fire safety officer John Moshier was operating the system in the road in front of the duplex. Esler said where the accountability system is set up also serves as the fire command scene.

“This is brand new this month,” he said. “We purchased it on a regional grant written by Andy Clark, fire chief of the town of Albion, and Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield, Oakland and Norridgewock all participating on that. It helps us track every single person on the fire ground so that in the event of a firefighter emergency, we can quickly identify and locate where those firefighters are and be able to quickly get to them. This has proven to be a valuable piece of equipment we didn’t have before. It’s the best system we’ve had in years.”

He said the grant was for about $20,000.

Firefighters from all communities were working well together Saturday night, according to Esler.

“The regional effort is the best for us — it’s the safest approach for us,” he said.

A press release issued early Sunday by Waterville fire Captain John Gromek said two people who live on the 36 Green St. side of the duplex and were displaced had made arrangements to stay with friends.

State fire investigators will be at the scene on Monday, according to the release, which also said no further information will be available until then.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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