ROCKPORT – A local man was killed when he apparently fell into a campfire last week, and state officials said Monday they were investigating a number of recent blazes in midcoast and central Maine.
Fire also leveled barns in Thomaston and Swanville over the weekend.
Richard Thomas, 57, of Brady Brook Circle in Rockport was found in the remains of a campfire by a friend who went looking for him Sunday evening after not having heard from him for a few days, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.
Thomas lived alone.
His remains were taken to the state medical examiner’s office for autopsy and positive identification, although authorities were fairly certain Monday that the victim was Thomas.
“Thomas was known to sit around the fire at night in his backyard,” McCausland said.
The Thomaston fire was reported about 6:30 p.m. Sunday in a gravel pit owned by George C. Hall & Sons off Beechwood Street.
The barn was used to store hay, and more than 3,000 bales were lost. A neighbor discovered the fire after smelling smoke. The barn was in flames when firefighters arrived. Departments from Thomaston, Rockland, South Thomaston, Warren and Cushing responded. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the blaze.
The Swanville barn fire was reported at 9:37 p.m. Sunday at the Joe Dickey farm on Upper Oak Hill Road. The blaze destroyed an unattached barn filled with 2,000 bales of hay. McCausland said the origin of that fire had yet to be established.
It was the second time in six years that the Dickey Farm was hit by fire. On Feb. 28, 2000, the Dickey farmhouse was leveled by a fire that broke out in the kitchen. The fire spread to an adjacent barn but Dickey managed to free his cows and horses in time. The home, which was rebuilt, was not damaged in Friday night’s fire.
Meanwhile, McCausland said that the State Fire Marshal’s Office had determined that a barn fire in the Kennebec County town of Albion last week was caused by arson. That fire, on Pond Road, was discovered at 1:30 a.m. Thursday by homeowners Paul and Joanne Westin, who managed to escape without injury.
The Westin fire was the second barn fire in town last week that investigators determined was set by an arsonist. The cause of a third barn fire that occurred in Albion the week before has yet to be determined.
State Fire Marshal John Dean is advising residents in central and coastal Maine who own barns to keep outside lights on and report any suspicious signs of activity.