May 26, 2018
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Investigators unable to find cause of Ellsworth fire that preceded homeowner killing himself

Mario Moretto | BDN
Mario Moretto | BDN
Firefighters battle the blaze that destroyed this Stackpole Way home in Ellsworth on Nov. 8, 2012. The next day, investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office deemed the fire suspicious, and the homeowner, Dayton Arey, took his own life.
By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The cause of a fire that destroyed an Ellsworth home in November, displacing a family of seven, will remain a mystery. The day after the fire, homeowner Dayton Arey killed himself in Lamoine.

There was too much damage to gather the evidence necessary to pinpoint a cause, Sgt. Tim York of the state fire marshal’s office said Friday.

“We usually look for burn patterns, things of that nature, to try to make a determination,” York said. “When everything burns, it’s difficult to figure out what burned first and why.”

The two-story home on Stackpole Way caught fire Nov. 8. Fire crews from six towns assisted, but were unable to prevent the blaze from quickly destroying the home.

Within a half hour of firefighters’ arrival at 2:30 p.m., the roof collapsed. When it did, an electrical wire was severed and large white sparks shot down to the ground below, preventing firefighters from effectively battling the inferno. By 3:30 p.m., there was virtually nothing left of the home.

The next day, Arey, who shared the home with his wife Heidi and their children, killed himself in Lamoine. The same day State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas deemed the fire “suspicious.” Police gave no motive for the suicide and did not know whether the home was insured.

York said that in such cases in which a fire leaves nothing in its wake but rubble and ashes, a finding of “cause undetermined” is not uncommon. Investigators conduct interviews, but its often not enough to pinpoint what started a fire.

“Essentially, it’s a right-down-the-middle kind of thing,” York said. “We’re not saying it’s an accident and we’re not saying it was an intentional act. There just isn’t enough information to make a call one way or the other.”

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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