pnms-yarfire-010709 Yarmouth, York fires raise suspicions Businesses scramble to recover from Route 1 blaze

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YARMOUTH — Investigators are looking for possible connections between the blaze that caused an estimated $4 million in damage to a Route 1 building last Friday and an arson fire followed by a burglary at a York office building the next night.
According to Capt. Kevin LeConte of the York Police Department, the Yarmouth and York police departments are working together to determine if the fires are related. Although the York fire was less extensive than the Yarmouth fire, LeConte said there were similarities.
Both fires took place in an office building housing doctors, psychiatrists and social workers. Both incidents were accompanied by a burglary of a nearby doctor’s office. And both fires may have originated on the second floor.
“While it appears someone was looking for (prescriptions), drugs or money, in York, none were on site,” LeConte said.
Yarmouth Police Chief Michael Morrill said his department conducted an informational road block for a few hours Monday night to talk to drivers in the area.
“It is just another investigative strategy,” Morrill said. “It is helpful to solicit information from the public.”
LeConte said York conducted a road block at the same time.
“We will absolutely work with the Yarmouth Police and relay any information to them that will be helpful,” he said.
He also said Kittery police are involved in the investigation, because there may have been a similar burglary in their town.
Members of the Yarmouth police and fire departments met with representatives of the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Monday and Tuesday morning. LeConte said representatives from the York Police Department were present, too.
Sgt. Joel Davis of the fire marshal’s office said the meeting at the Yarmouth Police Department was held to figure out if there is a connection between the Yarmouth and York fires.
“This investigation includes tearing apart the building to see where the fire may have started,” he said.
The fire in York caused about $50,000 in damage to two offices, while the Yarmouth fire destroyed the entire building at 500 Route 1, resulting in approximately $4 million in damage.
One of the displaced tenants is Dr. Mark Fischer of Fischer Family Orthodontics. He said he is looking for a new space.
“Any patients with appointments should contact the office,” he said. “We are going to work it all out as best as we can.”
Dr. Leigh Baker said she has had her office at 500 Route 1 for nearly five years and said she had thousands of patients.
“It is just awful,” Baker said. “People say it is just stuff, but it is sentimental stuff.”
Although it has been emotional for Baker, she said she is amazed by the number of friends and patients who have offered to help.
“Yarmouth is a small town, and it is easy to have created a wide network of friends,” she said. “People have offered to help in a number of ways.”
Baker said she will be temporarily working out of other doctors’ offices, but her patients can call her old office number and leave their name, appointment date and time. She can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 82 in Yarmouth.
Troy Maldon, Edward Jones financial adviser, said he is fortunate to be sharing space with a fellow financial adviser for the time being.
“The Chamber of Commerce contacted us right away and has given us leads,” he said. “It’s heartening to know so many people who have offered their help and support.”
Maldon can also be reached on his cell phone, 522-9257.
Pat Powers, a Yarmouth resident and real estate agent, said as the head of the Yarmouth Rotary, he is doing all he can to help the local business people in need.
“Our hearts go out to the people with their losses,” he said. “We want to share any information and resources we may have so folks can get back on their feet.”
Town Manager Nat Tupper said he has briefly talked with town councilors about utilizing town-owned land for businesses in need. He said land with water and sewer access would be good to set up temporary office space or modular trailers.
“We will try to help by setting up a warm space for people to hook up a phone, have privacy, and function for a while,” he said. “We know everything is a struggle, but it may be helpful to have a place to store items or equipment while a more permanent solution is reached.”
A volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce said the chamber is compiling information from residents who want to donate space, furniture and equipment to the displaced businesses. She said the Chamber of Commerce does not have a complete list of all the businesses yet, but is working to contact everyone.
Yarmouth Tax Assessor Bill Healey said 12 tenants are on record with the town for tax purposes, although there reportedly were two-dozen business in the building.
They include Top Cuts salon, Kumon Math & Reading Center, Funeral Alternatives, Salt Associates, Coastal Neurobehavioral Center, the Wild Bird Center, Larabee Realty, licenced social worker Susan B. Soule, Inner Image Clinical Thermography, accountant Joanne Runyon and acupuncturist Lynn Breckenridge of GreenStone Natural Health.
Bob Cerf, owner of the Club Z tutoring franchise, said he has found a new space at 5 Fundy Road in Falmouth.
“I’ve signed the lease and just need furniture,” Cerf said Tuesday. “I’ll be up and running in just a few days.”
Lorie Webster, owner of Evolutions personal training, said she and massage therapists Amy Chiu and Monica Swan were still looking for a space to work and relocate.
“We will definitely reopen in Yarmouth or Falmouth, but have no location yet,” she said. “We have a lot of equipment to move and have lost a lot.”
Webster can be reached at 831-7634; Chiu is at 838-9906 and Swan’s phone is 653-2127.
Webster said one of the two suites she owned was not damaged by the fire. She hoped to get inside her space Tuesday afternoon to recover any salvageable items. She said the damage was caused by smoke and water.
Webster said building owner Art Dyer has been very helpful to the tenants.
“He is trying very hard to get his tenants their belongings, but I’m sure his hands are tied,” she said. “He is at the site everyday and has been wonderful.”
Don Russell of Salt Associates consulting firm said he has redirected his office number to his cell phone and is able to conduct business from home.
“Our main focus is to get customers to be able to reach us, but we do not have a retail problem like a lot of the other businesses,” Russell said.
He said the response to the fire has shown him how important it is to be surrounded by a small, caring community.
“This would not happen in downtown New York,” Russell said.
For more information on how to help displaced businesses, contact the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce at 846-3984.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net.

n-yarfire1-010809.jpgState fire investigator Chris Stanford and Yarmouth Fire Chief Pat Fairbanks examine what was left Monday at 500 Route 1 in Yarmouth after last Friday’s six-alarm blaze. The fire did up to an estimated $4 milllion in damage to the building, which housed two dozen businesses.n-yarfire2-010809.jpgFirefighters assemble at a mobile command post during Friday night’s Route 1 fire in Yarmouth, which burned into Saturday morning and was fought by approximately 100 firefighters from Yarmouth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Freeport, Portland and Windham.n-yarfire3-010809.JPGFirefighters douse the front of 500 Route 1 on Friday, while n-yarfire4-010809.jpgothers use an aerial ladder to fight the blaze from above.n-yarfire4a-010809.jpgothers use an aerial ladder to fight the blaze from above.n-yarfire5-010809.JPGA hand-written sign at 500 Route 1 advises customers that Top Cuts salon is now operating elsewhere after Friday’s fire, which destroyed two dozen businesses.

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