Firefighters from five northern Maine fire departments fought a fire at a building on Main Street in Fort Kent on Monday, Feb. 28. Credit: Courtesy of Rick Douglas

FORT KENT, Maine — A Fort Kent family was still in shock Tuesday morning after the Main Street building that housed their businesses and the apartment in which one of them lived burned.

About 65 volunteer firefighters from six northern Maine fire departments battled through fierce winds and freezing temperatures for 8 hours on Monday trying to save the building at 273 West Main St. owned by husband and wife Tracey and Evelyn Hartt.

A state fire marshal investigator examined the aftermath with Fort Kent Fire Chief Ed Endee Tuesday morning, but the amount of damage made it impossible to pinpoint the fire’s cause. It remains under investigation, but is not considered suspicious.

“We feel strongly it was accidental. It had nothing to do with anybody in the building or any equipment. At this point, we know where it started. We just don’t know why because we couldn’t come up with any physical evidence,” Endee said Tuesday.

Tracey Hartt operated Performance Printing and Designs and Evelyn Hartt operated Tangles Beauty Salon within the building, which was insured. The Hartts purchased it in 2001.

One of the Hartts’ two adult sons, Jaren Hartt, discovered a cloud of smoke when he went to fill up the pellet stove. He alerted his father in the printing shop and his mother heard her family’s frantic pleas to call 911 where she was working in the beauty salon.

Moving ahead for the Hartts will not be easy. The Hartts’ other son Brandon also worked with his father. Brandon Hartt and his girlfriend Jillian Roy rented the building’s only apartment, and Roy operated her esthetician business out of the building as well.

“Yup, all five of us worked there; it was our family business. Our whole life is there. We went without for so long and this happened,” Evelyn Hartt said. “Never thought we would be jobless. I’m just thankful that we’re all alive and we got out in time. I didn’t grab a thing, that’s how fast it was.”

Other businesses in the building included Skin Deep/Esthetics By Jillian and SJV Recovery and Behavioral Health Peer Center, according to a set up to help those displaced.

Smoke poured through downtown Fort Kent as firefighters from five northern Maine fire departments fought a fire at a building on Main Street on Monday, Feb. 28. Credit: Courtesy of Rick Douglas

Owner of SJV Recovery Jennifer Desjardins said four therapists treated about 200 patients out of the Main Street office, but many of them can be seen via TeleVideo.

The fire destroyed all of the substance use disorder and mental health business’ office furniture and equipment, and Desjardins posted on social media seeking available office space for rent in Fort Kent.

The fire department responded with everything on Monday afternoon — three engines, the tower ladder and the rescue, Chief Endee said Tuesday. The Hartts’ building was already engulfed in flames by the time the firefighters arrived.

Endee immediately called for mutual aid, summoning firefighters from Frenchville, Eagle Lake, Madawaska, St. Francis and North Lake Fire and Rescue.

“We didn’t need more fire apparatus, just manpower. It was a very taxing ordeal. It was cold, the guys were wet, everything was freezing up and we had a lot of area to cover with all those fire hose lines,” Endee said.

With the Hartts’ building unable to be saved, firefighters focused their attention on preventing the raging fire from consuming a neighboring building owned by Danielle Forino that housed Aroostook Real Estate.

A building located at 273 West Main St. in Fort Kent was a total loss to fire, but firefighters were able to stop the flames from consuming a neighboring building. Credit: Courtesy of Rick Douglas

“Flames were licking at it so we kept water on it the whole time.There was some very strong wind coming off the river blowing the smoke right in our faces and at buildings and businesses across the street as well,” Endee said. “It was a tough fight but the guys did a great job. I’m very proud of the firefighters.”

Their perseverance paid off as they were able to save the real estate building.

Endee praised the Fort Kent community who came together to help the firefighters as they worked.

JD’s Tavern opened to supply coffee and sandwiches for the firefighters. Town manager Suzie Paradis and the town administrative staff brought them coffee and other snacks.

Frenchville firefighter Dean Lavoie warms his hands with the exhaust pipe of a fire engine as firefighters from four departments battle a building fire in Fort Kent in freezing temperatures. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

SAD 27 transportation director Peter Saucier kept a school bus running at the scene as a warming shack for the firefighters, and other businesses nearby opened their doors as places for firefighters to warm up.

Fort Kent has seen its share of downtown fires, including one in March 2012 that took out three historic Main Street buildings.

“This tragedy is another major loss to the downtown Fort Kent area but we are resilient and we will move forward,” Fort Kent town manager Suzie Paradis said. “The spirit and volunteerism in this community will supersede this loss.”