This old farmhouse at 224 County Road in Waterville was damaged by fire Monday. The house, shown Tuesday, was deemed uninhabitable by the city because of unsanitary conditions and numerous code violations. About 21 tons of trash were removed from the home in the spring. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — An old farmhouse that was the site of a suspicious fire Monday on County Road had been deemed uninhabitable by the city prior to the fire and no one was supposed to be living there, according to city officials.

Several area fire departments responded to the blaze, which firefighters extinguished after it spread from the second to the third floor.

Shannon Moss, public information officer for the Office of State Fire Marshal, said Tuesday that the fire investigation is ongoing and officials have more work to do to determine the cause.

Dan Bradstreet, director of city code enforcement, said he declared 224 County Road unfit for human occupancy in January and at the time there was no operable heat or domestic water and there were serious sanitation and safety issues throughout the building as well as outside.

“Almost all the windows and exterior doors were missing, leaving the building interior exposed to the elements,” Bradstreet said in an email, explaining that bathroom plumbing was not working and there were hypodermic needles “scattered throughout the house.”

“An abundance of household trash and clutter throughout the building made it difficult to navigate,” he said.


Bradstreet said he tried to work with the occupant of the house over the winter to correct the problems, but no progress was made. The person was given multiple deadline extensions to correct violations but did not meet them, he said.

“Once the snow was gone in the spring and the owner had failed to meet all deadline requests, I concluded that the condition of the exterior was an imminent threat to the health and safety of the public and any wildlife or pets that may wander onto the property.”

Bradstreet enforced city code and received authorization to clean up the property in May, removing 21 tons of trash, discarded household items like furniture and appliances, and what he estimated to be hundreds of hypodermic needles. The city’s Public Works Department performed the cleanup and confirmed the tonnage a couple days after the work was done. The weight included some dirt because so many needles were scattered about the property and embedded in the ground that a Bobcat loader was used to skim the surface and collect them all.

Last month, someone claiming to be the new property owner asked Bradstreet to take another look at the property and the condition remained largely unchanged, though much of the interior clutter and dangerous and unsanitary conditions had been removed, he said.

“I found a pressure tank that was spraying water into the basement where the dirt floor was saturated,” he said. “I also found many loose wires and cords plugged directly into the electrical service panel and terminating on the floor, ceilings and walls of the wet basement. The condition of the electrical service constituted an immediate electrocution and fire hazard.”

Bradstreet said he understands that the ownership of the property is in question and that a probate hearing needs to happen. No one should have been living in the house at the time of the fire because there are no functioning utilities and nearly no windows, he said. He said he never reauthorized re-establishment of electrical service so there has been none at the property, which he continues to deem uninhabitable.


Contacted Tuesday to seek information on who owns the property, City Assessor Paul Castonguay provided a copy of a quit claim deed in the Kennebec County Registry of Deeds which says Dwayne Holmes of 224 County Road sold the property April 27 to Douglas Hanson of 118 Augusta Road in Winslow for $10.

According to the Waterville assessor’s database, the property is assessed at $178,900.

Asked if there are any other properties in Waterville like 224 County Road with extensive code violations, Bradstreet said his office is not aware of any.

“The issue with 224 County Road was that it was loaded with people living in very unsafe conditions,” he said. “Our priority is to work with the owners to correct any safety issues. A declaration of unsuitability for habitation is a last resort and only used when all other options to resolve the issue have been exhausted or there’s an imminent threat to the life and safety of any occupant.”

No one was at the house when firefighters arrived at the fire Monday, reported just after 7 a.m., according to Waterville Fire Chief Shawn Esler. Esler said at the scene that the fire was considered suspicious in nature.

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