HALLOWELL — When Noah Lebel pulled up to the house at 1 Franklin St. on Tuesday night, the city police officer could feel the heat from fire through his windshield.

Just about 40 feet away, three-quarters of a three-story home was engulfed in fire, and flames shot up nearly 30 feet into the air. The heat was so intense the power lines running by the home were on fire.

His chief concern was the information relayed to him that someone might still be in the home. He stopped long enough to tell dispatchers that mutual aid would be needed.

Crews respond to a fire Tuesday night at 1 Franklin St. in Hallowell. Photo courtesy of Hallowell Fire Department

As he ran around to the side of the house, Lebel saw a man already leaning a ladder up against the side of the burning building. The occupants, Peter Schumacher and his daughter, had escaped the fire by climbing out of the second story onto the roof of the porch. Lebel and the man helped them down the ladder and away from the fire.

By that time, people had started gathering around the fire scene, and Lebel was running to the neighboring houses to warn the residents about the fire and the possibility that it could spread. Some neighbors were outside with hoses, wetting down their property as a precaution.

“If you know Hallowell, it’s a pretty close-knit town,” Lebel said Thursday before heading into his shift at the police department. “When I tell you everyone within 4 square miles was watching that fire, I’m not even kidding you.”


Lebel, 23, has been with the Hallowell Police Department for about two years.

Officer Noah Lebel of the Hallowell Police Department removes communications equipment on Jan. 19 from a police cruiser. He and a unidentified person helped save two people this week from a burning house. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

When fires are reported in Hallowell, which has a volunteer fire department, he said the police department also responds and relays information about the status of the fire. Then they do what they can.

Sometimes, he said, it turns out to be someone who has burned some toast. But on Tuesday, it was a devastating and intense house fire, and he didn’t hesitate.

“It’s our job, I guess. I didn’t really think about it at the time. There was still someone on there, so you just gotta run toward it,” he said. “I forget not everybody thinks like that.”

Meanwhile, the identity of the man with the ladder remains a mystery. His best recollection is the man, whom police called a “civilian hero,” was in his mid-20s.

“Everything moved so fast, and that wasn’t really on my radar to be honest,” he said. “I don’t know him. If I met him again, that’s not to say I would recognize him again or I would even fully know 100% it was him because everything moved so fast.”


Homeowner Peter Schumacher, second from left, chats with neighbors Luke Sunde, left, Freya Sunde-Davis and Rosie Davis Wednesday after they brought him a breakfast sandwich outside 1 Franklin St. in Hallowell. The house at the corner of Winthrop Street was destroyed by a fire the night before. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The Hallowell Police Department is still hoping to identify the man to thank him and is asking anyone who might know him or have information about him to contact the department via Facebook Messenger.

“The selflessness is remarkable,” Christopher Giles, interim Hallowell police chief, said of the mystery helper. “The man took a risk and went far above what most people are willing to do for their fellow humans.”

Once the occupants were safe, Lebel said he ran around to the surrounding houses to make sure that those residents were awake and aware of the fire and the potential it could spread. The closest neighbors to the fire were already outside, wetting down their property as a precaution.

Firefighters from Hallowell, Augusta, Gardiner, Manchester, Pittston and Randolph responded and put the fire out in about three hours.

In the meantime, the Gofundme campaign set up on behalf of the Schumachers had raised nearly $17,000 of its $20,000 goal by Thursday afternoon.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Maine Office of State Fire Marshal, which did not have an update on Thursday.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: