HOULTON, Maine — A 4-year-old child died in a Wednesday morning blaze in downtown Houlton.

The 4-year-old boy was the twin brother of a young girl who was taken to Houlton Regional Hospital after inhaling smoke, according to Shannon Moss, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Officials will remain on the scene of the  massive apartment fire at 5 Mechanic St., Moss said. Firefighters from Hodgdon, Linneus, Littleton and Monticello joined the Houlton Fire Department in battling the blaze.

The fire broke out in the apartment complex on Mechanic Street around 9:15 a.m. and filled the downtown with thick 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.

Firefighters battle a massive fire in downtown Houlton on Wednesday morning. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

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.

The 12-year-old was taken to Maine Medical Center by LifeFlight to be treated for serious burn injuries, according to Moss. 

The children were reportedly home alone when the fire broke out.

In addition to the three children, a firefighter was taken to the hospital for undisclosed injuries.

The Aroostook Red Cross, Aroostook Emergency Management Agency and Border

Patrol were on scene to assist. The Fire Marshall was also on site.

The Town of Houlton established an emergency shelter for those who are displaced

at the John Millar Civic Center.

Smoke from the blaze was visible for several miles. Students at Houlton Elementary School, about 2 miles away from the fire, were kept inside for recess due to smoke.

The roof began collapsing around 11 a.m., 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.

Houlton firefighter Michael Beals carries a cat rescued from the scene of an apartment building fire in downtown Houlton on Wednesday morning. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Brian McGuire of the Houlton Water Co. 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 Co.

U.S. Border Patrol agents were also on hand to assist with crowd control, as the fire drew a large group of people downtown to witness the blaze.

The cause of the fire has not been released. The building is believed to be a total loss. A representative from the Maine fire marshal’s office was on the scene. The American Red Cross was also notified to provide help for the multiple residents of the apartment building.

Several local restaurants and businesses were also offering their support to anyone displaced by the fire.

BDN writer Leela Stockley contributed to this report.