Scarborough motel owner, tenants face uncertain futures after fire
SCARBOROUGH — In the morning chill Wednesday, Itsa Good Motel owner Ellen Ellsworth examined the charred interior of unit No. 3.
"First, I have to find out what it would take (to reopen)," she said, after a Tuesday afternoon fire destroyed the room and forced the nine-room motel at 341 U.S. Route 1 to close.
"The good thing is, no one was hurt," Ellsworth said.
She also said she does not have insurance on the motel she has operated for nine years.
The fire, reported at 4:07 p.m., according to the Fire Department, spread smoke through the eaves of the L-shaped motel Ellsworth said is home to a variety of working people who pay weekly rents while they save money for security deposits and leases on conventional apartments.
Fire Chief Michael Thurlow said firefighters had to close U.S. Route 1 from Haigis Parkway to Scarborough Downs Road to access a fire hydrant on the northbound side of the road.
"It was knocked down in about 10 minutes," Thurlow said, but fully extinguishing the fire and making sure it had not spread to other rooms required closing northbound lanes of Route 1 for about 20 minutes and southbound lanes for about 30 minutes.
Thurlow said the blaze was contained to the one room, but there was water damage to adjoining rooms and smoke damage throughout the motel.
Fire investigators determined the fire was accidental, he said.
Ellsworth said candles left burning on a bureau ignited the blaze while tenants Alex Pagan, Monique Mills and their two children were away.
Ellsworth said she is fond of the family, and described them as nice people who work day and night jobs so someone is always there to take care of their children.
"The kids are cute as a button," Ellsworth said. "...They were saving for a deposit and they were almost there."
Ellsworth's son Jamie Jutras, and tenant Russ Souza, went into the burning room to make sure no one was there and tried to fight the fire, she said. They also woke up a next-door tenant who was napping when the fire broke out, and alerted other residents by knocking on doors.
"This is the best group of people I have ever had," Ellsworth said. "It is like a community."
Mike Mason, the regional director of emergency services for the American Red Cross of Maine, said 12 motel residents received free assistance with lodging, and as needed, with food and clothing expenses. Mental health services were also provided at the scene.