Attic fireplace at Augusta sober residing home displaces 12

The sober house at 93 Western Ave. in Augusta on Thursday, one day after the fire in the building’s attic. Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal Buy this photo

AUGUSTA – An attic fire damaged a sober apartment building at 93 Western Ave on Wednesday. in Augusta. The owner of the property was looking for accommodation for the 12 residents of the building.

The building is owned by Walpole-based Enso LLC, which operates salvage houses and treatment facilities in Augusta and Sanford.

Tim Cheney, Enso’s founder and chief executive officer, said Thursday he was working to move residents to other apartments.

According to Cheney, Enso specializes in the treatment of addiction disorders that are based on opioids and psychostimulants.

He said Enso owns three properties on Western Avenue that are funded by grants. The facilities provide safe accommodation for some people coming out of prison while they are being treated.

Some residents of the fire-damaged building can move to a similar facility in Sanford, Cheney said, while others may move to a different Enso location on Western Avenue.

Meanwhile, he said the American Red Cross was taking the displaced persons to a hotel in the area while Cheney could find suitable accommodation for them.

“We’re going to move them,” said Cheney. “I’ll drop them off at Sanford or find a spot in the Augusta area right away.”

He said the fire, which did not appear suspicious, originated on the second floor of the building. Cheney praised the efforts of fire fighters in the area to put out the flames quickly and prevent serious damage to the building.

“The fire department did an incredible job,” said Cheney. “They’re all on my Christmas list.”

Chief Dave Groder of the Augusta Fire Department confirmed that the fire was not suspicious and was treated as accidental. He said the fire likely started in an exhaust fan in a second floor bathroom.

Cheney said insurance claims have been filed and the property clean-up will begin as soon as possible.

Firefighters prepare to move to the sober apartment building at 93 Western Ave. to enter in Augusta. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal Buy this photo

The building at 93 Western Ave. was purchased by Enso Recovery to be used as a recovery home for Kennebec County prison inmates on a drug treatment program after his release from prison. This emerges from a report in the Kennebec Journal from May 2019.

In a July 2019 report, the property was included in a failed proposal to limit the number of group homes in certain neighborhoods, including Western Avenue.

John Bennett, chief of the Augusta Battalion, said Wednesday a report of a structural fire had been received shortly after 5 p.m. When firefighters arrived, Bennett said, there was heavy smoke in the attic.

According to Bennett, a maintenance worker in the building was able to direct the firefighters to the scuttle hole in the attic so they could better access the fire.

Bennett said firefighters from Chelsea, Gardiner, Hallowell, Toguz, Vassalboro and Winthrop were helping fight the fire. Some firefighters were still in the sack until around 8 p.m.

“I’m very proud of the crew,” said Bennett. “It was a great stop.”

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