Maine House Where Fire Killed Six Had Complaints

By PATRICK WHITTLE | November 10, 2014

A house that was destroyed in Maine’s deadliest fire in 40 years had a history of complaints, including a concern about a possible illegal unit on the third floor, according to documents released Friday.

The documents released following a Freedom of Access request by The Associated Press detail 16 complaints going back about 11 years. The complaints cited excessive trash and debris, rodent problems and items like computers and office chairs left outside the two-apartment house.

A 2012 complaint says owner Greg Nesbit added a new dwelling unit on the third floor, where state police said three bodies were found in a bedroom after the Nov. 1 blaze. The building was permitted for two units, records state.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire, which killed six people, all in their 20s.

City officials said in a statement Friday that they also are investigating whether Nesbit violated any city codes and whether legal action is warranted.

“This is a very emotional and raw time for everyone in Portland, and it’s important to note that no one should be placing blame,” Mayor Michael Brennan said in the statement.

Nesbit did not immediately return a phone call from the AP seeking comment.

Nathan Long, a tenant who escaped the fire, said the house was in the best shape it had been in in 18 months at the time of the fire. He described Nesbit as a responsive landlord who just had the furnace inspected two weeks ago. Long also said the house had only two units, and the third floor of the unit he lived in was a master suite with its own bathroom but not a separate unit.

A city spokeswoman declined to comment on the veracity of the complaints, citing the city’s ongoing investigation.

“Greg was a good guy,” Long said. “The way he’s being portrayed is really irritating me.”

Ed Goldman, who lived down the street from the house until the mid-2000s and whose late wife Carlene lodged some of the complaints, said the house has “always been in bad shape” and neighbors had been concerned for years that it was an eyesore and safety hazard.

City officials also announced the creation of a task force to review its fire and code inspection policies.

The fire killed Nicole Finlay, David Bragdon Jr., Ashley Thomas and Christopher Conlee, all of Portland, Maelisha Jackson of Topsham and Steven Summers of Rockland.

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