Fatality feared in cabin fire

Posted Oct. 13, 2008, at 12:50 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:17 a.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Maine — Firefighters were working to determine late Sunday whether a Mill Hill Road man perished in a fire that destroyed his ranch-style cabin at about 9 p.m.

Firefighters from the Lee and Springfield volunteer fire departments were awaiting the arrival of investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and standing by the still-smoldering ruins of the cabin owned by a man whom neighbors affectionately referred to as “The Dog Guy.”

Firefighters suspect that only one person and possibly several pets died in the fire, but they remained uncertain.

“There is too much sway here as to whether somebody was in there or not,” Springfield Fire Chief Joe Wood said.

Reports conflicted as to whether the homeowner’s vehicle was still on the premises of the camp, which is about 3½ miles into thick woods of the narrow, rock-studded dirt track called Mill Hill Road.

Around 8:45 p.m., Bill Van Houten, 42, of Springfield said he saw flames well above the tree line from his Mill Hill Road house about a half-mile from the scene of the fire.

“I saw flames 50 to 60 feet above the tree line,” Van Houten said. “It was really bright.”

Van Houten said he immediately called residents at the other end of the road and told them to call the fire department, which they did.

He got into his pickup truck and raced to the fire scene, where he saw that flames had consumed the 24-by-30-foot structure, he said. He said he tried to get near the camp to see if The Dog Guy was inside, but heat and flames kept him from getting any closer than 30 to 40 feet from the building.

When the first Springfield firefighters arrived, Wood said, the camp was falling in on itself as it continued to burn. Crews heard one muffled explosion just after they arrived and managed to pull a propane tank away from the cabin so that it wouldn’t blow up.

The Springfield department called for mutual aid, and Lincoln Fire Department responded but was turned back before arriving at the scene. Lee firefighters responded to the mutual aid call and helped Springfield keep the fire from spreading too far into the woods.

Van Houten said he hoped that The Dog Guy, whose name is being withheld, was all right. He said the man used to have eight dogs that he would be seen walking regularly, but three dogs recently died.

“He’s a little eccentric,” Van Houten said of his neighbor, “but he’s a good guy.”

The Fire Marshal’s Office was expected to work the fire scene through most of this morning.

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