Family members say one of the men killed in a Boothbay house fire Sunday knew he would die when he broke open a second-floor window to save his girlfriend – but the stairway leading downstairs had already collapsed.

“He gave his life to save her,” said Elva Zamora, the sister of Baldomero “Bart” Zamora, 50. Breaking the window caused an influx of oxygen, engulfing the room in flames, fire officials told her.

Zamora, 50, and Lucas Farias, 23, died in the early morning fire at the rental property at 116 Pleasant Cove Road. Julie Gilbert, 48, who survived the fire by jumping out a second-floor window, was Farias’s mother.

All three were from Chicago, although Gilbert formerly lived in Damariscotta.

State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators said the fire started in the first-floor living room, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. The cause of the fire was still unknown Sunday night, he said.

A Winslow woman and her two young children, all sleeping on the ground floor, escaped with minor injuries. Alexandra King, 26, and 8-year-old Harley Raymond and 4-year-old River Raymond were treated and released from the hospital, McCausland said.

Zamora and Farias apparently tried to escape, and their bodies were found near windows in two separate bedrooms, McCausland said.

Elva Zamora said she talked to the lead investigator of the fire and he said that, based on what he saw and a statement by Gilbert, the couple was trapped upstairs because the stairway had collapsed and “their only option was the window.”

“He did not want to break the window at first, because he knew the consequences,” Elva Zamora said, her voice breaking as she wept. “He let her out first because that’s just the kind of person he was. He had to save someone. We know that when he died, he knew he was going to die.”

Zamora, one of eight siblings, had two adult children and two grandchildren. He was a veteran who served with the Army Reserves. He had just turned 50 in September and the night before the fire, the family had friends over to celebrate a belated birthday.

“He had his girlfriend go out first. That was a brave thing to do,” said his brother, Wayne Zamora. The siblings and their mother were together in Chicago when they got the news. “He was very brave, ever since he was little.”

“He was always helping people,” his mother, Lionor Zamora, said in a phone call from Chicago.

Gilbert was listed in satisfactory condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland on Sunday night.

Wayne Zamora said his brother and Julie Gilbert had recently launched a non-profit called “Stories of our Fathers,” to provide seniors and veterans with recreational activities and services. Both their fathers were veterans, as are several of Zamora’s siblings.

Zamora had owned his own plaster and painting business for many years, and recently started working at Home Depot.

Sgt. Joel Davis of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said that when firefighters arrived, “the fire was too intense for them to get inside.”

The fire at the Cape Cod-style home, which is on a quiet residential street, started just before 8 a.m. It was reported by one of the occupants, McCausland said.

Boothbay Fire Chief Dick Spofford said the property has been for sale for several years, and was available to rent through the realty group selling the property.

The owners of the property, Troy and Trina Lewis, live about 2 miles away. A person who answered the phone at their house Sunday said they did not want to comment. The three-bedroom home, built in 1935, was listed for sale with the Pottle Realty Group for $142,000. Agent Clayton Pottle did not respond to phone and email messages.

Information regarding Boothbay regulations for rental housing and whether the property had any previous inspections was not available Sunday. It is unknown whether there were working smoke detectors in the home, McCausland said.

State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators were on the scene Sunday afternoon, entering the heavily damaged house in protective suits and respirators. Spofford said state investigators would be back on the property Tuesday to continue their work.

Spofford said firefighters had to shuttle water to the scene from a pond about a mile away. “It was a hard spot,” he said.

There were no other injuries, the chief said.

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