A 70-year-old Lewiston man died Saturday afternoon when he jumped from a top-floor window as fire tore through this apartment building at 226 Blake St. in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

A 70-year-old man died as the result of an intense fire in an apartment house Saturday that displaced nearly 60 tenants in downtown Lewiston.

Felicien K. Betu, 70, died from injuries he suffered after jumping from a window on the top floor of the four-story building at 226 Blake St., according to Shannon Moss, spokeswoman for the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The fire, reported at 4:44 p.m. Saturday, attracted dozens of onlookers and produced so much smoke that it could be seen from miles away. The blaze destroyed the building and damaged a nearby structure.

Moss said the cause and origin of the fire remain under investigation by the fire marshal’s office, whose investigators spent most of the day Sunday searching through the rubble. Their investigation is expected to continue into Monday.

Everyone else who lived in the building was able to escape and no other injuries were reported, Moss said. There were 10 apartment units in the building, which is located in a densely populated neighborhood between Kennedy Park and Lewiston High School. There are several other apartment buildings in that immediate area.

Assistant Lewiston Fire Chief Mark Caron said in an email Sunday night that dozens of tenants were displaced, along with people who lived in a neighboring building that had some fire damage. Caron did not provide the address of that second building. He referred all other questions to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The American Red Cross and the Androscoggin County Emergency Management Agency announced on social media that after the fire they set up a temporary emergency shelter at Lewiston High School, 156 East Ave., with enough space to accommodate up to 70 people. Several mental health workers, who are experienced in providing disaster relief counseling, were assigned to the shelter to help victims of the fire.

The American Red Cross said in a statement Sunday evening that it has been working around the clock to provide comfort and aid to those who lost everything in the fire.

After the fire, 32 people sought shelter at Lewiston High School, while 14 families received assistance in the form of food and clothing. The Red Cross said it has been assisting a total of 57 fire victims. The high school shelter was shut down late Sunday night because the space needs to be turned over to the school department for the start of the school week.

“We will transition clients to a local hotel where we will continue to meet their immediate needs,” the Red Cross said.

In the coming days, the Red Cross said, it will provide comfort kits containing personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, and shaving supplies to victims of the fire.

Lewiston Schools Superintendent Jake Langlais told the Sun Journal newspaper on Sunday that the 70-bed shelter was set up in the gymnasium at Lewiston High School.

Langlais said Betu was an adult education student in Lewiston.

Firefighters battle a blaze Saturday at 226 Blake St. in Lewiston. A man died trying to escape. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Langlais said The Green Ladle, the culinary program at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, is assisting with meals, while the Store Next Door, which operates out of Lewiston High School, is donating other resources, including clothing.

“These families lost all their belongings,” Langlais said. “It will take some time to recover. Our community is strong and out of these tragedies we see greatness.”

A fundraiser on GoFundMe was established to help the fire victims. The campaign was organized by Melvin Escobar, manager of the IHOP restaurant in Auburn, according to News Center Maine.

Escobar said two of his servers – including a woman with three children, ages 6, 5, and 7 months – were displaced by the fire. The mother’s sister also lived in the Blake Street apartment building.

“No person in this world deserves to lose anything to something so devastating, especially a family who are the most caring and loving people you will ever meet,” Escobar wrote.

The Kaydenz Kitchen Food Pantry, 155 Lisbon St., also stepped up to help the fire victims. It was offering free clothing, shoes and food to the tenants who lost their homes.

“Sunday is normally our day off, but it breaks our heart knowing how many people are waking up today with nothing,” Kaydenz said in a post on its Facebook page. “They don’t get to enjoy a Sunday dinner at home, sleeping in their own bed, or relaxing on the couch before the work week. They need assistance now!”

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