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Waterville man saves neighbors in apartment fire

According to authorities, Aaron Brunelle, a 1st floor tenant, decided to check on his neighbors before exiting the building and guided 3 kids and a dog to safety.
Credit: Waterville Fire Department

WATERVILLE, Maine — The Waterville Fire Department is investigating a fire that happened at a 3-family apartment building on Morrill Avenue that has displaced about ten people. 

The fire happened sometime around 1:30 p.m. on April 21, 2020. 

2 of the 3 apartments were occupied at the time of the fire. The initial investigation, according to the fire department, found that a tenant on the first floor, Aaron Brunelle, was the one that discovered the fire outside the building. Authorities say he went upstairs to notify his neighbors. 

Brunelle told investigators that he entered the third-floor apartment where he found 3 children and a dog. He said that he then led them outside where they were met by the fire department arriving to put out the flames. 

The Waterville Fire Department said in a news release that had it not been for Brunelle, the outcome could have been far worse. 

Fire Chief Shawn Esler will be recommending to the City Manager that Mr. Brunelle be recognized by the City and Fire Department for his heroic act that likely saved these children’s lives. Chief Esler will recommend Brunelle receive a lifesaving award. 

All of the tenants are now displaced due to the fire. The Red Cross is assisting with housing.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The fire department says the fire appeared to start on the outside of the building. High winds contributed to rapid-fire spread and involvement of the apartment building. They say it took about 40 firefighters in all to put out the flames.

The Maine Forest Service and the Waterville Fire Department are working on the investigation.

The Waterville Fire Department offers their appreciation to all of the firefighters and mutual aid partners who assisted at the scene. Winslow, Oakland, Fairfield, Albion, Delta Ambulance, and Skowhegan for RIT responded to the scene for assistance. Vassalboro and China Village provided station coverage. 

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