August 13, 2013

Fatal Windham fire deemed accidental

Parker Blanchard, 25, is declared dead in his third-floor apartment while other tenants escape.

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WINDHAM – Scott Nason said he awoke shortly after 3:30 a.m. Sunday to the sound of a smoke alarm beeping – the alarm emanating from the third floor of a multifamily home at 13 Main St., where he rents an apartment.

click image to enlarge

Windham firefighters finish cleaning up the scene Sunday morning at 13 Main St. in Windham after a man died in an early morning fire.

Joe Lawlor/Staff Writer

While Nason and others who lived in the apartment house survived a fire that broke out on the third floor, a man who lived in the top-floor unit died in the blaze, authorities said.

After hearing the alarm, Nason – who lives on the second floor with his girlfriend and their baby – smelled smoke and rushed to a closed door in the kitchen that leads to the third floor.

"There was intense heat from that door. I heard snap-crackle-pop and I thought, 'We've got to get out of here!"' Nason said as he was retrieving his belongings late Sunday morning.

Nason hustled his girlfriend and baby out of the house, and then woke up first-floor residents so that they could escape. Six of the seven people living at the house escaped, according to Windham firefighters.

But firefighters found Parker Blanchard, 25, unresponsive in the bedroom of his third-floor apartment.

Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was declared dead at the scene, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Blanchard's girlfriend, 25-year-old Annette Kowalik, escaped but was being treated for smoke inhalation Sunday at Maine Medical Center in Portland, McCausland said.

McCausland said "everything is pointing toward an accident," but an exact cause of the fire won't be released until Monday, when the State Fire Marshal's Office releases a report.

Nason said his family will be staying with relatives, but he was still shaken late Sunday morning.

"I'm nerved up beyond belief," said Nason, who did not have renter's insurance.

Windham Deputy Fire Chief Stanlee Emerson said the fire started on the third floor. The Westbrook and Gorham fire departments assisted.

"We got it knocked down within 30 minutes," Emerson said.

Late Sunday morning, firefighters were finishing up securing the yellow house, flushing the charred remains of the third floor with water to prevent flare-ups. The windows on the third floor were blown out.

Neighbors said they awoke in the early morning hours to see several fire trucks and dozens of firefighters responding.

"I woke up to get my son a sippy cup, and there were about 100 firefighters here. They put it out pretty quick," said neighbor Angela Higgins. "It's sad to see someone so young pass away."

Neighbor Liza Roberts said the tragedy might have been worse, pointing to propane tanks that could have exploded. The houses are fairly close together on the stretch of Main Street where the fire occurred.

"You realize that tomorrow isn't really promised," Roberts said. "It could have happened at any one of these old buildings."

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @joelawlorph

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4:54 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13 to correct the spelling of Parker Blanchard’s last name. The Maine State Police initially provided incorrect information.

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