CANTON — A local man was believed to have perished while trying to save his dogs from a house fire Tuesday night.

Neighbor and relative Mark Blanchette said Sherwood Campbell, 64, ran to Blanchette’s house at about 5 p.m., yelling that there was a fire.

Blanchette said they both went back to the house at 9 School St. and Campbell passed him and went inside.

Blanchette, a former Canton firefighter, attempted to retrieve Campbell from the residence but was unsuccessful.

“He ran to the top of the stairs and passed out,” Blanchette said. “I had my hands on him. He had a mission; it was written all over his face.”

Blanchette and family members believed Campbell went back into the home to rescue the family’s three dogs.

“He had a heart of gold and loved his dogs,” Blanchette said.

The house was owned by his parents, Norma and Sheldon “Chickie” Campbell, and was previously owned by Norma’s mother. All three lived in the house.

Sheldon Campbell had been taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland the night before for an illness and Norma Campbell was not home when the fire broke out, family friend Tracy Wing said.

Canton Fire Department, Dixfield Fire Co., Rumford, Peru, Mexico Fire Department and Med-Care Ambulance responded to the blaze.

Firefighters worked to knock down the fire. By 7 p.m. flames could still be seen from inside the house and the attached barn.

Nearby family members, including Campbell’s sisters, arrived and were comforted by neighbors who brought hot chocolate and coffee to help keep them warm.

In the small Oxford County town, many who gathered to watch the fire were related or close to the family.

State Fire Marshal investigator Danny Young said the second floor had collapsed and it was too dangerous to send firefighters into the building.

“We are treating it as a fatal fire, but we haven’t confirmed it yet,” he said.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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