A granite stone bearing a bronze plaque was installed in Longfellow Park near the site where six young people died in 2014 in a fast-moving fire at an apartment building on Noyes Street in Portland.

The memorial bears a quotation from the park’s namesake, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and rededicates the park benches there in honor of each person who died.

“The benches in Longfellow Park are named in honor of these young people whose lives ended too soon,” the plaque reads. “They help provide a place for reflection in this green space – a place where people can sit and listen to the birds, enjoy a bit of sunshine on a nice day and for new memories to take root.”

Victims of the Noyes Street fire. Top row, from left: Ashley Thomas, David Bragdon, Maelisha Jackson. Bottom row, from left: Christopher Conlee, Nikki Finlay, Steven Summers. Photos courtesy of their families

Killed in the blaze were Steven Summers, 29, of Rockland; Maelisha Jackson, 26, of Topsham; Chris Conlee, 25, of Portland; and building residents David Bragdon Jr., 27; Ashley Thomas, 29; and Nicole Finlay, 26.

Investigators attributed the cause of the fire, the state’s most deadly in more than two decades, to improperly discarded smoking materials. The building had no working smoke detectors, and one of the units in the multifamily structure did not meet fire code.

Benches in Portland’s Longfellow Park have plaques with the names of the victims of the 2014 Noyes Street fire. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The building’s owner, Gregory Nisbet, was charged in the case. A judge found him not guilty of the most serious charges of manslaughter but found him guilty of a misdemeanor fire code violation. He appealed the verdict, but ultimately served his three-month jail sentence.

The fire also spurred a series of policy changes at the city level. A citywide rental unit registration fee funds a fire safety inspection program that aims to proactively address code violations and other safety problems before they lead to tragedy.

 

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