October 8, 2012

Pittsfield fire Saturday caused by cooking grease

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD -- A tenant cooking french fries just after midnight Friday into Saturday morning sparked a fire that consumed the upper floors of an apartment house in the heart of downtown Pittsfield.

click image to enlarge

Tenants of this Pittsfield apartment building gather outside as an insurance adjuster takes notes inside on Sunday. Fire destroyed the building early Saturday morning. From left are David Halpin, Fred Spaulding and Danielle Aiken.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Residents of six apartments were left homeless in the blaze, which brought firefighters from five area communities to the Middle Street complex, behind the Fire Department, the police station and Pittsfield municipal offices.

A firefighter was injured slightly with strained muscles and was taken to Sebasticook Valley Hospital for observation and released, Pittsfield Fire Chief Bernard Williams said Sunday.

No one else was injured, Williams said.

"I was sleeping. Everyone was sleeping. The whole upstairs is gone," Danielle Aiken, daughter of building owner Jim Banks, said Sunday morning on the sidewalk outside the apartment house. "There's water damage everywhere else."

She and Banks both live in the building, she said.

"The fact that everyone was out of the building and accounted for was great," Williams said. "We established that early on, which means now you can concentrate on fighting the fire instead of trying to find people.

"We had fire showing out of at least two sides of the building on the third floor, with fire visible though the windows on the second floor."

Firefighters from Pittsfield, Newport, Skowhegan, Burnham and St. Albans were dispatched to the blaze, called in at 12:26 a.m. Saturday.

Sebasticook Valley Ambulance was sent to the scene, as was Detroit Rescue. Hartland and Detroit fire departments stood by at their stations to be used if necessary.

Fire crews were on the scene for several hours, with Pittsfield firefighters not leaving until after 6:30 a.m., according to the dispatch log.

Charred debris, children's toys and melted vinyl siding were scatted about the fenced-in yard Sunday morning. Yellow tape surrounded the building, preventing onlookers from entering the building legally.

"She was cooking french fries with grease on the fire. That's what caused the fire," Aiken said.

Williams said the woman who was cooking went to check something elsewhere in the apartment and when she got back to the kitchen, "the place was all afire".

He said she grabbed her two children and ran to safety.

Williams said to the best of his knowledge, the building owner was not insured.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

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