3 Teens Charged With Setting Fatal Lewiston Fire

Felicien Betu, 70, died when he jumped from a window to escape the flames

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Three teenagers have been arrested for allegedly setting a fire at a Lewiston, Maine, apartment building over the weekend that resulted in the death of a 70-year-old man.

Authorities announced Tuesday that two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old had been taken into custody on arson charges. They were transported to the Long Creek Correctional Facility, a youth prison located in South Portland.

Firefighters were called to the fire in a six-story apartment building on Blake Street near Lewiston' Mark W. Paradis Park around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday. Numerous area fire departments also responded to provide mutual aid, officials said.

The building was evacuated, but 70-year-old Felicien Betu was trapped in an apartment on the sixth floor. As emergency personnel were attempting to reach him, he jumped from a window in an attempt to escape the flames and died.

Sixty-one people in 17 families were displaced as a result of the fire, and the Red Cross is working to help find them shelter. They stayed in a local hotel Monday.

The apartment building was a total loss.

For dozens of people like Felicia Rawding, the memory of how she reacted when she realized a fire was roaring through her apartment building on Saturday is painful.

Her immediate reaction after finding out the fire was spreading was to "just grab my kids and run out the door," she said.

"I kind of froze, but at the same time, my mother instincts came in and we ran down the stairs as fast as we could, trying to yell to other people in the building to try and get out," she continued.

According to state investigators, the fire's cause was arson.

"I'm infuriated, I'm aggravated, I'm overwhelmed," said Rawding, reacting to the chain events that transpired between Saturday and Tuesday.

"We need everything, clothes, shoes, birth certificates," she added.

Rawding said she is in the process of trying to find a new apartment.

Meanwhile a number of area charities have raised tens of thousands of dollars and collected supplies like clothes, shoes and toiletries for fire victims, including a building next door to the one where the fire broke out which also sustained damage.

"Some children walked in with no shoes on and were able to walk out with shoes," said Kevin Boilard, owner and president of Kaydenz Kitchen Food Pantry, one of the non-profits collecting supplies.

On Tuesday, Nancy Iadarola from nearby Sabbatus was dropping off diapers at the pantry.

"My heart's just sad for them," she said of the fire victims.

For people like Rawding, the support of people in and around the city has provided some level of comfort.

"It makes you feel better there's so many people in the community really trying to help in any way they can," she said.

According to the Maine Department of Public Safety, the fire investigation is ongoing and anyone with information about it is asked to call the state fire marshal's office.

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