ATHENS — A man was found dead Wednesday night after a fire tore through a home in Athens, drawing a large response from firefighting crews in surrounding Somerset County towns.

Family members on Thursday identified the man as 61-year-old Gregory Corson, adding that a dog also died in the blaze. Investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal were at the scene Thursday but did not yet know the fire’s cause. Travis Thompson, the assistant fire chief in Athens, said there was no indication of suspicious activity.

The call of a structure fire at 15 North Road came around 9 p.m., according to Thompson, who responded to the scene. Corson was already dead when fighters arrived to battle the flames, Thompson said.

Corson lived at the residence, a family homestead, with his sister Lola Corson, 55; her fiancé Shawn Quimby, 48; and their dog, a pit bull named Dudley. Lola Corson and Quimby were across the street at a relative’s trailer at the time of the blaze.

“I saw part of the house in flames, and I wanted to go in and get them, but they wouldn’t let me go,” Quimby said, noting that Gregory Corson was his best friend. “I did a football pivot past (one of the firefighters), who was holding me back. (A neighbor) said, ‘Two tragedies are enough for tonight. We don’t need a third.'”

Less than a year ago, in November, Lola Corson said she and Dudley escaped a fire that ultimately destroyed the camper she lived in adjacent to the home at 15 North Road. Dudley did not survive the second fire Wednesday.

“That dog was just like a human,” Lola Corson said. “We think he tried to save my brother. He was on the second floor and somehow lifted a piece of plywood, and we think he was beside my brother (on the first floor) when he died. He was a strong dog.”

Shawn Quimby, who was soon to be the brother-in-law of the man who died in a structure fire late Wednesday night on North Road in Athens, tries to find comfort with a friend’s dog Thursday. His fiancé Lola Corson, in the foreground, the younger sister of the man who lost his life, keeps an eye on Quimby. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Members of the Corson family described Gregory Corson as a caring brother and uncle who suffered from dementia.

“When (Lola) lost the camper, (Gregory) made sure she was safe and had a roof over her head,” said Scott Peace, Gregory Corson’s nephew, 43, who lives across the street. “If (his family) needed anything, he would do it. He thought the world of us. He always wanted to hang out all the time. That was his thing. … He’d worry about everyone else before he’d worry about himself.”

That sensibility extended beyond just the Corson family, Peace added. Gregory Corson, who did not have children of his own, babysat a lot of kids in his Athens neighborhood when he was younger.

“He was like an uncle to all of them,” Peace said.

Quimby agreed.

“He’d take the shirt right off his back for anybody,” Quimby said. “He’d give you the last dollar if he had the chance. … If you needed to pay a bill and you didn’t have the money, he’d go and pay it for you.”

“Now that he’s gone, it’s gonna be a big loss,” Peace said.

An investigator with the state’s Fire Marshal’s Office works Thursday inside the house consumed by fire that killed a man late Wednesday night on North Road in Athens. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Brenda Avery, 66, another of Gregory Corson’s sisters, said the North Road property was not insured.

“My brother had a few of (my mother’s) old pictures and stuff,” she said. “He was a hoarder. I kept telling him he can’t have all this stuff in the house. (Lola) was the same way. … But he was always helping somebody out in town.”

Avery went to the scene Wednesday night but said the fire was fully involved by the time she arrived. She lives about 2.5 miles away, on Brighton Road.

“The fire marshals are still sifting through stuff, because I want answers,” Avery said Thursday afternoon.

Fire units from Athens, Madison, Skowhegan, Harmony, Cornville, Solon, Hartland, Cambridge and Canaan responded Wednesday night.

“We started on the outside and worked our way into the residence,” Thompson, of the Athens fire department, said Thursday morning. “We had it under control in an hour, an hour-and-a-half. We had a lot of towns respond, about all of central Maine.”

Lola Corson said she was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan on Wednesday evening because she thought she was having a heart attack, but it turned out to be a severe panic attack. Thompson said there were no other injuries.

The American Red Cross said in a statement that it was working with the family who lived at the residence and offering assistance.

 

Managing Editor Scott Monroe contributed to this report. 

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