Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
5 dead, 1 injured, more missing in apartment fire
PORTLAND, MAINE » Fire swept through an apartment house near the University of Southern Maine’s quiet commuter campus Saturday, killing five people and critically injuring one, authorities said. It was unclear if any of the victims were students.
The fire, which gutted the two-story, 90-year-old structure, followed a Halloween party the night before. It housed two apartments.
State f ire marshal’s spokesman Steve McCausland at first said the victims were students but later said they weren’t. Saturday afternoon, Portland Fire Chief Jerry LaMoria said they don’t know if any were students. Initial reports also said several people were unaccounted for but by later in the day, authorities were unsure how many, if any, were still missing
nxious students spent the day trying to get information about what happened, said Sam Hill, the editor of the university’s paper.
“Everyone is just trying to find out if their friends are hurt,” he said.
A few students visited the student union where Red Cross workers were offering counseling and comfort. As they came and went, students hugged each other; some cried. The campus, which has no residential housing, otherwise was still as usual on a weekend.
Joshua Dodge, a student Senate member, said, “It’s definitely kind of a shock that something like this could happen so close to home. If students were involved, these are people we see every day.”
One person suffered severe burns and jumped from a second-story window. He was reported in critical condition in the burn unit of a Boston hospital, McCausland said. A second person was treated and released from a hospital; seven people escaped from the burning building.
Two bodies were found on the second floor and two others on the third floor.
University President David Flanagan said at least one of the people who escaped was a student.
Damien Croxford of South Portland was driving through the area on his way to work when he saw the house in flames and the entire neighborhood cloaked in smoke. He said he found a badly burned person lying in the street breathing and conscious after he called 911. Croxford said he spoke with people who had evacuated the home who said they were unsure how many people were inside during the fire.
Croxford said the heat from the fire was so intense that he had to back away from the scene.
“It’s going to stay with me for a long time,” he said. “A prayer for the families.”
The fire, Maine’s deadliest since a 1984 blaze killed five in Hartland, ripped a hole through the roof of the house and both apartment units were badly burned.
The neighborhood is a dense, residential area of single and multi-family homes. A resident, Mike Krigman, said the neighborhood is a mix of permanent residents and USM students.
The universit y a nnounced the Red Cross help at the student union, where students could gather, exchange information and support each other.