93-year-old man shaken but OK after being pulled from burning building

Posted Nov. 21, 2011, at 7:13 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 21, 2011, at 3:21 p.m.

BOOTHBAY, Maine — A 93-year-old Boothbay man’s son said his father was shaken but unharmed Monday after being pulled from his burning house Sunday evening by a neighbor.

John Alley Sr. was sleeping at about 8:30 p.m. when he heard a bang and found himself being carried from his Beath Road home by a neighbor, according to his son, John Alley Jr. of Belgrade.

“That’s about all he remembers,” said Alley Jr. “Another five minutes and he would have been gone because the smoke was so bad. It’s kind of a tough thing for us, but he’s feeling good.”

According to Alley Jr. and Boothbay Fire Chief Richard Spofford, a woman driving by the Beath Road home saw flames on the front of the building, called 911 and notified one of Alley Sr.’s neighbors, Jody Lewis. Lewis, who is the public works director in Boothbay Harbor, could not access the house through the front door because of the flames, but was able to force open a sliding glass door in the back. He found Alley Sr. sleeping in his bed, according to Spofford.

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“He knew where [Alley Sr.’s] bedroom was, which is a good thing because there was a lot of smoke,” said Spofford. “[Alley Sr.] is in fairly good health for a 93-year-old, but he was sound asleep. He never would have made it out. He was in the farthest spot from the door.”

Lewis and others also were able to push Alley Sr.’s vehicle away from the burning building. Lewis could not be reached for comment.

Alley Jr. said his father, a Coast Guard veteran who spent World War II stationed at a lighthouse in Jonesport, has lived in the split-level ranch for 53 years and never in his life has he had a fire in a house he lived in. Alley Jr. said his father was examined at St. Andrews Hospital in Boothbay Harbor and was released Sunday night with no injuries.

Alley Jr. said his father lost his wife two years ago and since then “pretty much sticks to himself,” other than frequent visits from his children and other family members. This fall, he has spent much of his time raking leaves and trucking them to the transfer station. Alley Sr. was on his way to Jonesport Monday where he will reside with a daughter. Most of Alley Sr.’s belongings were salvaged from the house, which was fully insured.

“The last thing he said to me was ‘I’ll leave everything in your hands,’” said Alley Jr. “He’s a tough old bird. It’s unfortunate this happened, but we’re all doing OK.”

Spofford said fire crews from Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb and Southport responded to fight the blaze.

“The first truck in knocked it down pretty well,” said Spofford. There was fire damage to the front of the building and in the attic. Spofford said an investigator with the state fire marshal’s office on Monday revealed that the fire started in an outside light fixture near the front door. There was nothing suspicious about it, said Spofford.

Alley Jr. said the family was unsure whether they’ll try to repair the home.

“He’ll want to move back in, but for the time being he’ll be living in Jonesport,” said Alley Jr. “He’s a lucky guy.”

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