GARDINER — An early-morning fire Friday destroyed the second floor of a historic downtown building on Water Street.

Fire officials said the second floor of a building at 192 Water St., a former bank building that now houses office spaces and a Domino’s Pizza, would be considered a “total loss.”

The building’s owner, Fernando Jantorno Stelser, said he was “just devastated” by the fire.

“I just want to be back up and running as soon as possible,” Stelser said, holding back tears.

Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said crews responded at 3 a.m. to a report of the fire, which is a stone’s throw away from the fire station. Steady snow fell as firefighters arrived at the scene. No injuries were reported.

“There was a visible fire on the second floor,” Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said. “They were able to get that pretty quick, but it was already up into the roof space.”

At 8 a.m., crews from surrounding municipalities were dousing the flames from hoses suspended from ladder trucks and attacking them from inside the building. At noon, Nelson said the fire was still burning and crews probably would be there for a few more hours. Around 2 p.m., Nelson said crews were starting to clean up the scene.

Nelson said the fire was creating a challenge for firefighters because of multiple spaces between layers of roofing, a function of replacing the roof a number of times.

“It’s basically just running between the layers of roof, and we just can’t get to it,” Nelson said at 8 a.m. “We can’t get to it from underneath and we can’t get to it from the top.”

“We did get some big holes in the roof, and we’re just putting some water in and hoping that it gets to the right spaces,” he added. “Until some of the areas open up a little bit, we won’t be able to get to it.”

The brick structure holds a Domino’s Pizza, law offices and other business. Flames were shooting through the roof at 5 a.m. and firefighters were pulled out of the structure at 6 a.m.

An aerial truck, ladder and deck gun were pointed at the building’s roof. “We’re going to be here for a while,” Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said at 7 a.m., adding that people were told to stay away from the area.

Stelser opened the Domino’s Pizza location in the building in June 2017.

The building was the former location of Maine Trust and Banking Co.

Nelson said the second level was a “total loss” and Domino’s probably sustained smoke and water damage. Nelson said no one was in the building at the time of the fire.

District 2 City Councilor and Mayor-elect Patricia Hart, a consultant who rents an office space in the building, said a neighbor called and alerted her to the fire.

“I’m really touched by all the fire departments who came out and how hard everybody is working in these terrible conditions,” she said. “I hope they all stay safe.”

Hart said the building was a big loss for the city because of its history, which she said Stelser preserved within the Domino’s location. The pizza shop kept the old bank vault intact while designing the interior.

“He was really embracing the history,” Hart said. “It would be a shame if that was lost.”

Hart said she was not thinking about the future of her office space.

“I just want to make sure these firefighters stay safe,” she said. “It’s hard to watch.”

Resident Katie Labbe worked at Camden National Bank, which occupied the building before Domino’s. She told the Kennebec Journal on Friday that she had compiled information about the building’s history in 2013 and posted it Friday morning on Facebook.

“I really did love that building,” Labbe said.

Labbe said the building, built in 1837, formerly housed The Gardiner Hotel until 1870. In 1903, Maine Trust and Banking Co. moved in. It was occupied by a litany of banks, with the last one being Camden National Bank, from 2012 to 2015.

Back in 2015, another downtown fire damaged four buildings, starting at 235 Water St., displacing 12 tenants and injuring four people. Nelson said Friday’s fire caused extensive damage to the Domino’s building, but there was no additional danger to any other buildings.

“Because it’s standalone, we didn’t have to worry about exposure to other buildings,” Nelson said.

Kennebec Journal photographer Andy Molloy contributed reporting.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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