LEWISTON — Residents of a four-story apartment building on Pierce Street were forced to find other shelter Thursday night after an electrical short in the attic sparked a fire, Fire Investigator Paul Ouellette said.
Electricity to the building was shut off pending further investigation.
Ouellette said tenants in the nine-unit building either stayed with relatives or were helped by the American Red Cross. He estimated damage to the building at least $50,000.
Lewiston Fire Capt. Larry Morin said crews were called to 105 Pierce St. at 7:08 p.m Thursday for reports of a fire in the attic.
Tenants said they repeatedly tried contacting owner Brian Kirouak earlier in the day about problems with electricity in their apartments.
"When they called me, they didn't describe smoke," Kirouak said. "They said they had a (circuit) breaker that tripped, so I said I would come down and check it out."
Kirouak said he was out of town much of the day and went to the apartment house when he returned.
"I came over to inspect it myself," said Jason Rodriguez of Minot, whose sister-in-law lives in the building. "I definitely smelled something burning."
Rodriguez said his family started calling the landlord and his maintenance staff around 6:30 a.m. Thursday when they awoke to no electricity in their apartment. He said his sister-in-law told him that the electricity kept going off all day.
The family finally reached a point where the circuit breaker wouldn't even stay on late Thursday afternoon. They were on their way to spend the night with Rodriguez and his wife, who were picking them up, when Kirouak arrived and walked through the apartment with Rodriguez and the two discovered the fire in the attic.
"It's one of those issues where they had issues with the electric all day and they all kept looking around, but they didn't find anything," Ouellette said.
None of the tenants contacted the Fire Department during the day about the electrical issue or the funny smell.