Farmhouse fire kills deaf, partially blind victim

Monday, December 9, 2002
Associated Press

OTISFIELD, ME — A deaf and partially blind man died early Sunday in a fire that destroyed the 100-year-old farmhouse where he had been living alone. It was one of two weekend fires in Maine that are believed to be related to wood-burning stoves or chimneys.
Kerry Grover, who was 47, was trying to escape after the fire broke out in a family farmhouse in the Oxford County town where he lived.
Investigators from the state Fire Marshal's Office blamed the fire on an unlined chimney that had eroded over the years and could not withstand the heat from a wood-burning stove that was recently installed, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state Public Safety Department.
Across the state in Brookton, near eastern Maine's border with Canada, authorities said a fire that started near a wood-burning stove burned down the home of Gerald Gilman, the lone occupant who managed to escape without injury.
The fire in Brookton happened late Saturday or early Sunday. In Otisfield, neighbors reported flames shooting from Grover's house along Bolsters Mills Road at about 4:30 a.m.
"This is the time of year that we're going to hear more of this as wood stoves get fired up for the winter," McCausland said.
A little more than a dozen fire-related deaths have been reported in Maine so far this year, McCausland said. The number is smaller than usual.
McCausland said Mainers who heat with wood should make sure their stoves are inspected and in proper working order, and that chimneys — especially those in older homes — are lined and flues cleaned.
In Otisfield, fire companies from five nearby towns responded and found the house engulfed in flames when they arrived. Central Maine Power Co. had to temporarily shut off power to the surrounding area while firefighters remained at the scene.
The farmhouse had been in Grover's family since the 1920s. The victim's mother and a brother had moved out last week and a sister and others were to move in next week, McCausland said.
The spokesman dismissed speculation that Grover did not get out because he couldn't hear a smoke detector when the fire broke out, saying investigators had not found evidence that a detector was even being used in the two-story house.
McCausland said it appeared from where Grover's body was found that he had discovered the blaze and was trying to escape when he was overcome by smoke and flames.
"He was attempting to make his way out of the house," said McCausland.