DETROIT — A passer-by alerted the resident of a burning River Road home to a fire Monday night, then helped him down from the second floor, the fire chief said.

Gilbert Shaw was hospitalized Monday night because of smoke inhalation after a fire destroyed his home, an apartment attached to a barn.

Detroit Fire Chief Don Chute said Tuesday that the barn was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after 10:15 p.m. The barn’s front end collapsed within minutes of firefighters’ arrival, he said.

Shaw got out of the burning building with the help from a passing driver, who saw the fire and stopped to help him, Chute said.

The man ran to the burning building to alert Shaw to the fire and helped him down from a second-story balcony with a ladder, Chute said. The man left soon after helping Shaw and Shaw did not get his name, Chute said.

Shaw was taken by ambulance to Sebasticook Valley Health in Pittsfield for evaluation and treatment of a pre-existing cardiac problem and smoke inhalation, Chute said.


The fast-moving fire razed the barn and attached apartment and destroyed Shaw’s car, which was parked near the structure.

Shaw, a military veteran with health problems, lost everything in the fire, Chute added. The American Red Cross was contacted to get Shaw immediate help, he said.

It is not known how many of the multiple cats living with Shaw survived the fire, but Chute said he saw a few cats outside the building Monday.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal was expected to be at the barn Tuesday afternoon to determine the fire’s cause, Chute said. Roughly 40 firefighters from Hartland, Pittsfield, Plymouth and Newport helped fight the fire.

“We were lucky not to lose water. Mutual aid was right there within 10 minutes,” Chute said.

“It was very well organized. They did a great job,” he added.

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