Smoke pours out of doors and windows of an old Mechanic Falls mill building Sunday. A man was sleeping in an apartment in the building Sunday when a local roof worker smashed his window to get in and rescue him. Credit: CBS 13

Rob Vivenzio was working on a nearby roof when he saw the fire starting to take over an old Mechanic Falls mill building Sunday afternoon.

The Mount Vernon man said he knew there was at least one apartment in the building and raced to the rear of the structure to make sure anyone inside was getting out safely, he told CBS 13 Sunday.

“No one was answering, so I took a cinder block and threw it through the window,” he recalled. “The guy was actually sleeping with earphones — buds — [and] had no idea the fire was actually taking place.”

The blaze captured headlines statewide as it sent towers of black smoke into the sky that were visible miles away. Even as excavators began to turn over debris to uncover lingering hot spots Monday, fire officials told CBS 13 it may not be completely extinguished for days.

At its peak, the fire occupied more than 100 firefighters from 24 towns, Mechanic Falls Town Manager Zakk Maher told the television station.

Three apartments and two businesses — Corcoran Environmental Services and Maine Cycle — were located in the Lewiston Street mill building, according to media reports.

But no one was injured as a result of the blaze, and that’s in part due to the efforts of Vivenzio, who is being credited with saving the sleeping man’s life.

“It was no biggie. Honestly, I couldn’t turn my back on it,” he said. “The old thing of ‘flight or fight,’ I wanted to fight. People were telling me to stop, but I wasn’t going to stop. You have the choice there. You can sit there and watch it or do something about it.”

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.