In the aftermath of the April 17 fire at 45 Maine Street, the Brunswick Police Department (BPD) has decided to commission a criminal investigation after the Brunswick Fire Department (BFD) discovered several violations of the building's fire code.
"We've had a meeting with the BFD, the BPD and the State Fire Marshall's office," said BPD Lieutenant Mark Waltz, "and because some of the violations—which included problems with the fire alarm system and with not having the methods of egress on the second floor—[led to] dangers for the firefighters and the residents of the building, we made a choice to do a criminal investigation to get some more details on why the work wasn't done."
"We don't talk about that, it's in the hands of the insurance company," said building owner Orville Ranger, who refused to comment further on the matter. He also declined to reveal the name of the contracted insurance company.
Alongside the discovery of these violations, the BFD also made headway in other matters relating to the fire, including its cause.
"The cause of the fire was officially deemed undetermined, but we cannot rule out the absence of an electrical malfunction due to some evidence we've uncovered in the debris," said BFD Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Emerson. Emerson also disclosed that the remaining debris will be cleaned up by the insurance company.
Despite the uncertainty regarding the origin of the fire, Emerson ruled out the possibility of arson.
"The fire is not determined to be suspicious," he said. Emerson also explained that there will be no further investigations into the fire as "its origin and cause is a closed case."
Although the fire's blaze is long gone, those effected are still feeling its repercussions. Paul Clark, director of emergency services for the midcoast Maine Red Cross, discussed the many hardships that the former residents of the recently demolished building now face.
"Unfortunately, a lot of them lost their identification—wallets, drivers license, social security cards, all this kind of thing," he said. "We're basically assisting them in contacting the appropriate authorities to get all these things put back in place again."
Clark also illustrated the extent to which the Red Cross has been helping those affected.
"We take care of their emergent needs," he said, "like making sure they have a safe place to stay, food to eat, clothes to wear, any emergency medical supplies they might need, as well as some emotional support if need be."
Clark's efforts, as well as those of his organization, are slowly paying off. After being initially put up in hotels, "most of [the displaced residents] have found, through the Brunswick Housing Authority, other places to permanently stay."
According to Clark, the victims of the fire will continue to pay rent at their new residences in the same manner that they had previously.
"It's however they were living before with the apartments, some paid their own way, [and] some had assistance from different agencies," he said.
Clark praised the regional communities' efforts to assist those who were displaced.
"We don't get any funding from any government," he said. "All of our funding to help these people comes from the donations that the community sends in to us. Without that, we wouldn't be able to help them out as much as we can."
"In February we had the Union Street fire—an apartment building—and three weeks ago we had the Oak Street fire—another apartment building—and now this one on Maine Street," he added. "The communities have stepped forward and donated."