PITTSFIELD, Maine — A man who lives on Estelle Street told investigators that he is to blame for the fire that ripped though his home late Monday, Pittsfield Fire Chief Bernard Williams said Tuesday.
“He fell asleep and dropped a cigarette” that caught his bedding on fire, Williams said.
Robert Hackley Sr., who is on oxygen, was awakened around 11 p.m. by his wife, Carolyn, after their bed had caught fire. Shortly after the couple noticed the fire, it burned through his oxygen line, and that provided the fire with fuel, the fire chief said.
“He’s very lucky,” Williams said.
Hackley, his wife and two others made it out of the building as firefighters arrived. Hackley was taken to Sebasticook Valley Health in town to receive treatment for smoke inhalation and was released early Tuesday, Williams said.
The fire quickly spread through the single-family ranch-style home, he said.
“There was heavy fire and heavy smoke showing on two sides of the building” when firefighters arrived, Williams said.
A fire crew from Newport and a rescue crew from Detroit assisted firefighters from Pittsfield, with about 20 people in total working at the scene, the fire chief said.
Because there was an injury, investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived to search for the fire’s cause. Fire marshal Sgt. Ken Grimes said the fire was accidental and the cause was careless disposal or use of smoking materials.
“The gentleman was on oxygen at the time, but we don’t know for sure if it was an aggravating factor,” he said. The Hackleys “tried to extinguish it themselves and couldn’t do it.”
The couple then left the home with the other occupants and called the Fire Department, he said. Fire crews were on the scene until after 4 a.m. ensuring all hot spots were extinguished.
“They got two dogs out and lost a cat, and the second [cat]” may be alive, Williams said. “It’s a black cat, and one of the firefighters saw it running down the road. It’s probably scared to death. They usually hide and come back after a bit.”
One end of the home is destroyed, and the other end has serious smoke and water damage, but Williams said he believes it is structurally sound.
“It’s not pretty,” he said. “I believe it’s salvageable.”
The Hackleys did have insurance, the fire chief said.