This story has been updated.
HOULTON, Maine — Firefighters in Houlton and several surrounding towns were at the scene of a massive apartment fire in downtown Houlton Wednesday morning.
The fire broke out in a large apartment complex on Mechanic Street and filled the downtown with black smoke as firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze and rescue the occupants.
Firefighters were also working to rescue animals trapped inside. Houlton Animal Control Officer Dave Reardon said he had collected several cats and dogs, who had been taken to a local veterinarian for evaluation.
The apartment building is owned by Kerry Simpson and is listed on the town’s property tax maps as WLR Residential Properties Inc.
Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca said emergency responders were able to locate three children in the building — a 12-year-old and 4-year-old twins who were taken to Houlton Regional Hospital. Their condition was not immediately available.
Smoke from the blaze was visible for several thousands. Students at Houlton Elementary School, which is about two miles away from the fire, were kept inside for recess due to smoke.
The roof began collapsing around 11 am, prompting fire officials to move their vehicles further away from the blaze. A local towing company removed vehicles in the municipal parking lot.
The metal roof of the structure made it difficult for firefighters to attack the flames. Extensive efforts were made to prevent the flames from spreading to the adjacent building — McPartland’s Plumbing and Heating and another larger apartment complex on Main Street.
Brian McGuire of the Houlton Water Company said three pumps were helping supply water to the town’s fire hydrants, providing 2,000 gallons of water per minute for firefighters. Tankers were also filling their trucks with water from the nearby Meduxnekeag River.
McGuire said the town’s reservoir contains 1.5 million gallons of water to supply the town. The amount of water being used at the fire scene was the most he had seen in his nearly 35 years with the Houlton Water Company.
Members of the United States Border Patrol were also on hand to assist with crowd control, as the fire drew a large group of people to the downtown to witness the blaze.
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