By Matt Daigle
NORWAY — The State Fire Marshal’s Office said the Monday evening blaze that destroyed a two-story apartment house at 54 Beal St. was accidental.
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Dan Young, a state fire investigator, said a friend of one of the tenants was “frying up some scallops on the stove on the first floor” when he left the room momentarily. “He walked into the other room after putting some oil on the scallops, and in those few moments, an oil fire started up and got away.”
Norway Fire Chief Dennis Yates said seven people resided in the first-floor apartment and five in the second-floor apartment.
He said that when officers arrived, the apartment building was already engulfed in flames. They had to deal with live wires on the ground, along with a propane tank in the front yard.
When the occupants left the building, Yates said they left the door open, which exacerbated the blaze.
“When we do drills at the Norway Savings Bank or other places, we always urge people to shut their doors,” Yates said. “It restricts air flow into the building. If you have air flow through the room when there’s a fire going, it’ll push the fire from one end of the building to the other.”
The wind was “pretty strong” while the fire was burning, Yates added, which could have resulted in the fire being pushed into the back of the building.
The construction of the building also played a role in the severity of the blaze.
“The building has a balloon framing, which didn’t help at all,” Yates said. “When the fire gets into the walls, it runs the chance of running straight up into the attic.”
The building, owned by Peter Marcinuk of Raymond, was “up to code,” Young said, and had “working smoke detectors and egress windows.”
“(Marcinuk) is happy that nobody got hurt,” Young said. “He said the tenants have lived there since 2014 and that he hasn’t had any problems with them.”
Yates said that in his opinion, the building was a total loss.
“It’s standing, but barely,” he said. “At this point, there aren’t any plans to tear it down.”
Fire departments from Norway, Paris, Oxford, Poland, Otisfield, Waterford and Hebron responded to the fire, which broke out around 9 p.m.
According to the Norway tax assessor database, the building is valued at $110,900. Yates said the building was insured.
A local Red Cross Disaster Action Response Team member has been meeting with both families displaced by the fire, ensuring that they had safe places to sleep, food and other essentials.
The Red Cross said in a news release that it would stay in contact with the families to provide financial assistance and community referrals.