RUMFORD — A man died Tuesday in a house fire on Hillside Avenue, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The body of Dale Pellerin, 47, was found in the bathroom, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said.
"The State Fire Marshal's Office says cigarettes are the likely cause of the fire, which started in the living room of the ranch-style house," McCausland said.
The Fire Marshal's Office and Rumford police were handling the investigation.
Pellerin lived at the house with his father, who wasn't home at the time, McCausland said.
A family cat may have also perished, Rumford fire Chief Bob Chase said.
According to property records at the Town Office, the house is owned by Bernard E. and Joan Pellerin, and the property was valued at $50,500. It wasn't immediately known whether the house was insured.
The fire, which was reported at about 2 p.m., heavily damaged the two-story house at 598 Hillside Ave., in Rumford's Virginia neighborhood.
Investigators said a neighbor discovered the fire after smelling smoke and called 911.
Chief Chase was the first to arrive, along with Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley.
Chase said they were met by heavy smoke coming out the kitchen window and front door, until a second window broke out.
"We had reports that the building might be occupied, so we did our best to make the quickest entry as we could," Chase said of his initial crew of three on-duty Rumford firefighters.
"But we did have to have a manned (water) line in place, because there was sufficient heat and fire to keep us at bay if we didn't," he said.
Chase said most of the fire was to the right of the front door in what he called the living room area.
"So the guys did a good job of getting some water on it quick and doing a quick, primary search," Chase said.
McCausland said Higley attempted to enter the house but was overcome "by the intense smoke and heat."
Chase said the sergeant "tried from the side door to see what he could see, and in doing so, inhaled some smoke."
Higley was taken to Rumford Hospital, where he was treated and released. No one else was injured.
Mexico, Andover, Dixfield and Peru firefighters were sent to the fire scene, which is a dead-end street on a wooded hillside. About 50 firefighters responded.
Rather than fight the fire from the outside, Chief Chase said they decided quickly to enter the house and attack it from within because they didn't know how many victims were inside.
"The initial team went through the front door, put some water on it to knock the flames back a little bit to make it tenable for them to go in and make a quick primary search," Chase said. "The victim was found and left in place, because we didn't think it was tenable where he was and in that condition."
At about 2:30 p.m., Rumford police met with a few grief-stricken people who tried to rush past them to get to the house. But Chief Stacy Carter grabbed the arm of one woman and directed her back down the street.
One woman collapsed onto the street after apparently learning from Rumford police that a man had died inside. Others helped her up, hugging and consoling her, before they moved out of the heavy rain and under a neighbor's porch.
Heavy smoke could be seen billowing from the house as firefighters vented the roof and continued to attack the fire from the inside.