Small Maine town fire, anything happening in the local community good or bad means everyone pitches in to help.

You don’t go through any local event alone. Last week a fire in my home town of Houlton Maine. Thirty eight people were displaced in the fourteen unit apartment building fire.

The old timers remember the 1902 fire that wiped out a big chunk of Aroostook County’s oldest town.

houlton me fire
1902 Great Fire In Houlton Maine, 111 Buildings Losts In The Blaze.

That turn of the century town fire burned 3 churches, 75 houses, covered 20 business blocks. 80 families were displaced. In all, over 111 buildings were lost in that small town Houlton Maine fire.

The town of Houlton rebuilt with brick in the downtown.

The need for a rock solid fire department because a must in any small Maine town. To protect the structures, all the buildings. Wooden structures with cedar shingle roofing were no match for fires that were a constant concern to the locals in the small Maine town.

The Houlton Maine fire of March 23 happened around 9AM.

Watch the video clip in the above link. It was sunny, there was no wind, it was not the middle of the night on the coldest day of the year. The fire in the 14 unit building on Mechanic Street in Houlton took the life of a four year boy.

All area fire departments responded to the 911 alarm call.

Clearing the building out happened quickly and with a lot of hollering, much precision. Had the fire smoldered silently before engulfing the structure in the middle of the night, the loss of life would have been much large.

If that fire had happened with a strong northeast wind to fan it, not just the apartment building would have been lost.

Block after block of houses and anything built wooden in the fire’s path could have been consumed. The headline could have read “All houses in the path of the raging fire lost to the base of Drakes Hill”.

My secretary’s brother is retired from the Maine department of transportation and got a call. Doing anything today? David is retired and says what do you need? He races in from Linneus to hop in a Monticello fire department pumper. To make the many trips one block away to drop the hose and fill up the tanker. Using high spring run off water levels to siphon off the H2O from the Meduxnekeag River.

The local town public works department makes the rounds to top off and fuel up the many pieces of fire equipment battling the blaze too.

houlton fire 1902
The Great Fire Of 1902. Brick Replaced Wood Structures In The Downtown As A Result Of The Blaze.

Flames shooting high in the air are doused with thousands of gallons of water through out the day and night. You don’t leave a structure fire even when the regular work day for most of us is over.

No no, someone sticks around and keeps an eye on the rubble and debris. Working in shifts to make sure nothing gets out of hand as the embers and coals of the blaze finally go out. Or try their hardest to rekindle and ignite again. It can take days babysitting any structure fire.

To remove the threat of fire doing any more damage in a small Maine town.

You think of the fire fighters using their years of training to preserve public safety. To get everyone out, to coordinate as a team to tackle and contain the fire.

Each fire a little different scenario to work around and the threat to life, both inside the structure or with the team trying to put the fire out. Local restaurants and take outs shuttle in the food to fuel the victims and fire fighters.

Local churches and the entire community takes on the role of how can I help?

When fourteen units are suddenly wiped out and everything you own inside is gone, there are so many needs. Clothing, furniture and foremost shelter, meals, support of all kinds. Emotional support and counseling to help all ages deal with the event.

The outpouring of support filters out into the communities surround the Maine small town fire location.

The local Millar Civic Center was used as a temporary shelter for all the displaced apartment renters. Arena ice just went out in the nick of time to become a make shift shelter. Finding an apartment as winter unwinds in a small Maine is not easy either.

In my little home town, there is a two percent vacancy rental rate.

Not everyone wants to be a landlord part of it. Some of the town’s empty units exist but for a reason. Too far gone with frozen pipes and worn out from being ridden hard and put away wet. Usually a foreclosure in the making but it can take years for the rudderless ship to finally run aground on shore. Court house steps and billable hours eat up lots of time in the over burdened COVID cause case back load. Just got off jury duty and was told by the judge in the black robe there were 1900 cases in the docket back log.

Here is a list of all the landlords for rents in Houlton Maine to tap and see if some unit is available to lease.

A local Louisiana Pacific OSB mill has a major expansion going on, the many subcontractors hogging anything available for livable rental units. Motel rooms are jammed with these workers, the snowmobilers who visit the region for some vacation rest and relaxation.

Renting a house for sale is usually short termed in today’s fast paced Maine real estate market.

No long term lease to sign and always month to month. With lots of buyers being toured inside and out of the house rented with a silent salesman for sale sign out front speared in the front lawn.

houlton maine fire
From Market Square, The Houlton Maine Apartment House Fire Smoke Billows Upward.

One empty apartment in a triplex I manage is available and two of the displaced fire victims are looking into renting it.

In a small town, it is easy to make a phone call or two, to facebook message someone to get information.

The renter themselves provides lots to help in finding the best fit for a rental unit.

Getting a reference is easier when you know the person you solicit to provide one. When you trust reference and their character, you get accurate information based on real live personal experiences with the individuals.

houlton maine fire
Houlton Maine Fire, 14 Rental Units Destroyed.


One of the renters has up to four grandchildren each weekend. The grandmother says those kids could be too noisy and boisterous for the tenant above and below in this 2nd floor apartment rental. She needs a place but does not want to bother any other building tenant.

The other renter may be going off to college and did not want to lead the landlord on that the leasing could be only until fall. If she goes on to college or not is up in the air.

My reference tells me this is a smart cookie, good person to rent to if a space becomes available. When she heard about the local apartment house fire, she told me she would invite this person into her own house to stay if need be. The is a pretty strong endorsement.

Bean suppers this weekend, donations for the fire victims are all underway and the community supports its own. The outpouring of generosity is huge and constant in a small Maine town. No matter what the disaster event that rocks the community.

Grateful for what did not happen.

small maine town early morning
Early Morning In A Small Maine Town. Lots Of Folks Up And Hard At Work Serving The Public.

That the fire was not in the early morning hours while everyone was sleeping.

That it was not the coldest day of the year with whipping winds to fan the blaze and cause it to spread to other structures. But the loss of a four year old in the blaze and prayers for others with burns. That thought haunts everyone in a small Maine town. We have the same gratitude for an ice arena roof cave in back in 1998. The building was empty when it went flat under the snow load. But no one wants to think about the loss of life if a game with hockey players, spectators, coaches, the zebra officials were playing a game during the roof collapse.

How the structure next door was not lost in the fire is just a testament to the fire fighters abilities.

The McPartland Plumbing and Heating brick building did get water damage from all those gallons of water soaking the tar and gravel roof. Fans to dry out the attic and business continues up and down Mechanic Street. Lots of moisture from all that water being applied next door and to the sides, roof of anything near the structure fire was done. Now recovery and repair to the damage underway.

Small Maine towns, they share a gold ball from a local basketball team that came out on top in a crucial game. Or they rally around the victims, their neighbors, friends, relatives when something grave happens like a structure fire in a multi unit apartment house.

I’m Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers, ME Broker