A fire at 45 Maine Street on Sunday caused significant damage to the three-story commercial and residential building. The damage was deemed to be too significant to repair and led authorities to raze the building to the ground.
The official cause of the fire is still under investigation. Deputy Fire Chief of the Brunswick Fire Department (BFD) Jeff Emerson said that the call came in on Sunday at around 2:30 a.m. and that "Police officers [were] first on the scene, initially [responding] to a search and rescue call on floors two and three. [They] rescued someone from the third floor." He went on to explain that the response is a combined effort, with the Maine State Fire Marshalls Office taking the lead on the investigation and the Brunswick Police Department (BPD) and the (BFD) assisting where possible.
"[The fire fighters] were all showering water right into the top of the building...[it was an] old building...it burned fast," said Brunswick resident Lou Palmer.
"There was so much smoke inside the building, they couldn't see," added Topsham resident Deedee Furbish.
45 Maine Street, built in 1837, housed 16 apartments and five businesses, including Wildflours Gluten-Free Market. Approximately two dozen residents lived on its second and third floors, all of whom escaped unharmed.
"Nobody was injured in the fire," Emerson said. "One of the fire fighters from the mutual aid department, who [was] directing traffic, was hit by a car. He's not in critical condition, [but was] transported to MidCoast [Hospital]."
"The Red Cross is taking care of residents of the building right now, [and has] put them up in a local hotel," Emerson added. "They'll work with the building owner about finding out [permanent] living arrangements."
Having put out the initial fire, officials soon cordoned off the north section of Maine Street from Mill to Bank, and began to determine whether the building could be salvaged. However, soon after everyone was evacuated, "the fire actually broke out again and we had to do an emergency evacuation. [The fire] presented itself violently, coming out the windows," said Emerson.
After the second outbreak, officials began to demolish the building using an excavator and a large amount of water to keep the dust from rising.
Brunswick resident Skip Edgerley said it took "months and months to build it, and just hours to take it down."
Edgerley continued, "It's tragic that the people that lived there will have no opportunity to claim anything."
The building had been a presence in the local community for many years. "As little girls we used to go up and visit a friend for ice cream sandwiches," said Furbish. Her sister, Carol Hall, agreed, adding, "We grew up here, this building was a part of our lives."
Despite the sadness accompanying the destruction of a building that was part of the community for many years, residents took a certain pride in the fire fighters' response.
"With rain and wind, there were a lot of elements working against them, and still they were great," said Hall.
Diane Vella, owner of the adjacent store Blessings said that the Fire Department's response was "phenomenal, and if you need any proof my building's still standing, with only a five feet difference between the buildings."