The sober living house 93 Western Ave. in Augusta on Thursday, a day after fire broke out in the building’s attic. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — An attic fire damaged a sober living house Wednesday at 93 Western Ave. in Augusta, leaving the property’s owner scrambling to find housing for the building’s 12 residents.

The building is owned by Walpole-based Enso LLC, which operates recovery houses and treatment facilities in Augusta and Sanford.

Tim Cheney, Enso’s founder and chief executive officer, said Thursday he was working to place the residents in other housing.

Cheney said Enso specializes in treating those with addiction disorders stemming from opioid and psychostimulants.

He said Enso owns three properties on Western Avenue that are funded through grants. The facilities provide some who are coming out of jail safe places to stay while they receive treatment.

Some residents of the fire-damaged building can move to a similar facility in Sanford, Cheney said, while others might move into another Enso location on Western Avenue.


Meantime, he said the American Red Cross is placing the displaced residents in an area hotel while Cheney finds them suitable housing.

“We will relocate them,” Cheney said. “I will put them down in Sanford or also find space immediately in the Augusta area.”

He said the fire, which did not appear to be suspicious, originated on the second floor of the building. Cheney lauded the efforts of area firefighters who extinguished the flames quickly and prevented more-severe damage to the building.

“The Fire Department did an incredible job,” Cheney said. “They’re all on my Christmas list.”

Chief Dave Groder of the Augusta Fire Department confirmed the fire was not suspicious and was being treated as accidental. He said the fire likely started in an exhaust fan in a second-floor bathroom.

Cheney said insurance claims have been filed and the cleanup effort at the property will begin soon as possible.


Firefighters prepare to enter the sober living house Wednesday at 93 Western Ave. in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The building at 93 Western Ave. had been purchased by Enso Recovery to be used as a recovery house for Kennebec County jail inmates in a drug treatment program after they are released from jail, according to a May 2019 Kennebec Journal report.

In a July 2019 report, the property was included in a failed proposal to limit the number of group homes in certain neighborhoods, including Western Avenue.

Augusta Battalion Chief John Bennett said Wednesday a report of a structure fire came in just after 5 p.m. Wednesday. When firefighters arrived, Bennett said, heavy smoke was billowing from the attic.

A maintenance worker at the building was able to direct firefighters to the attic’s scuttle hole so they could better access the fire, according to Bennett.

Bennett said firefighters from Chelsea, Gardiner, Hallowell, Togus, Vassalboro and Winthrop assisted in fighting the blaze. Some firefighters were still at the sac ene until about 8 p.m.

“I’m very proud of the crew,” Bennett said. “It was a great stop.”

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