Three Alarm Fire on Fore Street Starts at Joe Soley Property

Jessie Northgraves & Seth Condon, Both Employees of Joe's New York Pizza, a Building Owned by Joe Soley.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,531)

Seth Condon was working this morning at Joe’s New York Slice Bar & Pizza, 420 Fore Street,  when he smelled smoke.  He opened the door to the basement around 1:30 am and billows of smoke came up into his face.  Immediately he dialed 911. The Fire Department arrived moments later.  That’s how a 3 alarm fire with 65 firefighters on 7 trucks was discovered in the wee hours of the morning. Support from surrounding Fire Departments, such as Cape Elizabeth, were involved as well. The fire was not under control until 5 am. There were no injuries Fire Chief Lamoira said early this afternoon.

The fire originated in the utility area, the sub-basement, of the Dancing Elephant 11 Indian Restaurant which fronts on Wharf Street according to Nicole Clegg, city spokeswoman.  (See above photograph.)  The building is owned by the controversial Joe Soley, a major property owner in southern Maine and out-of-state. “We were communicating with the property manager of that property to correct the fire and safety violations.  We felt we were making progress,” said Clegg in a telephone conversation. Soley will have to address life safety issues before the city will allow businesses to reoccupy the space Clegg said.  Joe’s New York Slice Bar & Pizza, the building also owned by Soley,  will be shut down indefinitely as well. Busiess owner, Joe Kelley, owns businesses in Portsmouth, NH as well.

This is not the first time that Jack Soley has butted heads with the City of Portland and tenants of his buildings – both apartment renters and business renters.

Two other stores were seriously affected as well.  Mark’s Place, at 416 Fore Street, as well as the Old Port Candy Co., 422 Fore Street and Street & Co.   All three businesses will be closed for the foreseeable future.

Rumors were circulating around the Old Port this afternoon that the fire was due to shoddy workmanship and lack of professional workers doing utility work that does not meet city code.  The density of the businesses in the Old Port makes safety violations of particular concern to nearby businesses. Ever present is the memory of the Fire of 1866 which destroyed much of Portland.

The power is out for most of the block preventing businesses from functioning and forcing some to relocate their operations.  Dana Street, Street & Co. said he’ll be closed down for at least four days because of smoke damage.  The city has told Street he needs to replace all food as well as unopened wine.  His landlord is Tim Soley, son of Jack.

note:  The second photo down is of Jessie Northgraves and Seth Condon, both employees of Joe’s New York Slice Bar & Pizza, that is shut down indefinitely – until Joe Soley meets City’s Code requirements.  The building is owned by Joe Soley.