SKOWHEGAN — A well-liked and respected cinema projectionist died Friday in a mobile home fire in Skowhegan, marking the first fire-related death in Maine in 2018.

Police on Saturday found the body of William Lashon, 53, inside his home at Harvey’s Mobile Home Park off Route 150 after a relative and a neighbor reported they had not seen him since before Thursday’s snowstorm.

The fire was confined to a room that Lashon had converted into a theater room, Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in a written statement Sunday.

Lashon worked for 17 years as a projectionist at Pittsfield Community Theater, said the movie theater’s manager, Donna Dunphy.

“The community will miss him,” an emotional Dunphy said by phone from the theater Sunday afternoon.

Dunphy, who has worked at the theater for about 28 years and who hired Lashon in 2001, said he was a hard worker and well-liked.

“He did a little bit of everything for me,” she said, noting that he always was willing to work weekends and loved to change the movie names on the marquee.

“Bill is a nice guy – he’d do anything for anyone,” she said.

Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office believe the fire was sparked sometime Friday by electrical wiring in the room, McCausland said.

After arriving at the scene Saturday, police called Skowhegan firefighters around 1:30 p.m., said Skowhegan fire Capt. Rick Caldwell and firefighter Daryl Wyman, who responded to the mobile home park.

Caldwell and Wyman said at the fire station Sunday that they were called there Saturday for an odor investigation because police could smell what appeared to have been an electrical burn, although the fire was out when police arrived.

“They told me there was somebody in there, deceased,” Wyman said. “It’s not what we expected to come to. We’re not sure what he was using for heat because his mother said he refused to buy oil. There were kerosene lanterns. I really think he was just overcome from the heat and the smoke. It appeared he may have tried to put the fire out himself.”

A call and email Sunday to the state Medical Examiner’s Office seeking the cause of death got no immediate response.

Wyman said the theater room where Lashon’s body was found had a lot of wires and extension cords, and many items piled on the floor.

“He had like a projection screen and he actually had movie theater seats and rails,” Wyman said.

There were kerosene lanterns in the room, but they did not appear to be related to the fire because they were clean and unbroken, he said.

Once firefighters dug down into the debris, which included computer towers and boxes, they found burned wires, Wyman and Caldwell said.

They said the fire was not suspicious in nature.

“It’s just a very bad situation,” Caldwell said. “I feel bad for the mom. I know she’s taking it very hard.”

Dunphy, the move theater manager, said the theater employs five people including herself, so they all regularly talk about various things. Lashon enjoyed gardening, and he would talk about different movies, said Dunphy, who was working Sunday at the theater.

“I don’t know what his favorite movie was – I know he liked a lot of the sci-fi,” she said. “We are just a small community theater. We all talk and joke around. He was good with patrons that came in. I just let some of them know that he passed and they were kind of devastated.”

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