Blazing fire destroys Waterville apartment

On Monday, Feb. 23, a raging fire devastated the five-unit apartment building at 15 Paris Street in Waterville’s South End. Reported at around 10:15 a.m., the fire furiously blazed through the afternoon, completely destroying the building and leaving its twelve tenants (including three children) homeless as well as two cats unaccounted for.

The Waterville fire department received onsite backup from the departments of Fairfield and Winslow, resulting in about 40 firefighters in total working together against the roaring flames. Fire departments from Albion and Oakland also provided help by covering Waterville’s fire station during the hectic afternoon. On the scene, Waterville police blocked off the street and surrounding area, only allowing entry to emergency vehicles and a school bus called to warm the evacuated tenants.

Weather conditions played a significant role in the fire’s destruction. Aggressive winds intensified the flames, moving them rapidly in different directions, which allowed the fire to grow and cover more area. “Every time the wind would blow, it looked like it would ignite the fire even more,” local resident, Gary Shaw, said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald. “It was feeding it. It just kept getting worse and worse.”

For the battling firefighters, the hostile weather conditions made their task far more challenging, as winds quickly made the fire extremely fast moving, unpredictable, and dangerously large. At noon, the fire had grown so furious that safety protocols were made to keep the firefighters safe. At that time, all tenants had already been evacuated, but Waterville’s Fire Department Chief David LaFountain saw the uncontrollable nature of the fire as a growing threat to the firefighters facing its wrath. “With the wind conditions, it blew the fire all over the place. It kept changing directions,” LaFountain told the Portland Press Herald that afternoon. “Right now we’re in defensive mode, which means nobody goes inside.”

Thankfully all tenants who lived inside the apartment building were quickly brought to safety, and there were no injuries caused by the fire. The only harm done by the flames were to the residents’ beloved homes, perishing along with lifetimes of personal belongings inside the burning building. Believed to have started on the second floor, the fire completely destroyed the two upper levels of the building, with the first floor receiving major damage from the heat and smoke of the fire as well as from the countless gallons of water the firehoses poured in for hours as they battled the flames. Investigations are still being conducted to determine the fire’s cause. As of now, the building’s charred skeleton surrounded by piles of ash and debris is all that remains where the old apartment house proudly stood before.

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