- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The top three stories of the year in Maine all happened in little more than a week: a fatal fire that killed six people, a nurse who treated Ebola patients and fought quarantine attempts, and the GOP winning big on Election Day.

The worst fire in more than two decades - a blaze that swept through an apartment house after a Halloween party - was voted the top story of 2014 by The Associated Press and its member news organizations. The fire early Nov. 1 in Portland spurred a lawsuit and prompted action to ensure rental properties are properly maintained in Maine’s largest city.

The runner-up story was a Texas native who made national news when she defied a state-imposed quarantine after she returned to the U.S. after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Kaci Hickox’s arrival in Maine on Oct. 27 made Fort Kent ground zero for the debate over protocols for health care workers returning from West Africa.

The election in which GOP Gov. Paul LePage won a second term, the GOP took control of the Maine Senate, and Republican Bruce Poliquin won the 2nd Congressional District seat was voted the No. 3 story.

Rounding out the Top 10:

4. A Halloween-themed hayride that went out of control and slammed into a tree in Mechanic Falls, killing a teenage girl and injuring more than 20 others. An investigation focused on a possible mechanical failure.

5. A strike by about 1,800 FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The telecommunications company declared an impasse in late August, and workers went on strike in October.

6. In Saco, neighbors were shocked to learn that a maintenance worker killed his wife and three children with a shotgun before taking his own life in July.

7. The state supreme court ruling that transgender students could use the bathrooms of their choosing in public schools. It was the first time a state high court in the U.S. concluded that a transgender person can use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.

8. Controversy over a $1 million contract awarded by the LePage administration for an independent consultant to make recommendations about streamlining the state’s welfare and Medicaid program. News that parts of the report were plagiarized led to outrage and a suspension of payments by LePage.

9. The state’s attempt to impose a do-not-resuscitate order on a baby over her mother’s wishes. The baby suffered severe injuries when she was shaken by her father, and the state child welfare agency won the right to make medical decisions on her behalf. The LePage administration reversed course and sided with the mother.

10. The governor’s attempt to withhold general assistance payments to immigrants who are living in the country illegally, leading to a lawsuit. LePage threatened to withhold all general assistance reimbursements to communities that failed to comply with the directive.

Other stories that received votes in the annual AP survey included the release of the so-called Round Pond Hermit from jail; the convictions of two Massachusetts men for killing three people found in a burning car; and the possibility that the National Guard 133rd Engineering Battalion will be relocated to Pennsylvania.

Also receiving votes were former President George H.W. Bush’s jump from an airplane on his 90th birthday, the University of Maine’s loss of a key grant for its offshore wind program; a fire that killed four people in Caribou; the cancellation of the winter shrimp season; and attempts to legalize marijuana.

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