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Cause of Bath city councilor's house fire remains unknown

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Cause of Bath city councilor's house fire remains unknown

BATH — The cause remains unknown of a Dec. 10 fire that gutted the 177 Middle St. home of City Councilor James Omo and killed two pets.

The Ward 1 councilor said on Wednesday that an insurance inspector has taken a desk lamp and power strip for analysis to see if they could have contributed to the fire's cause. The state fire marshal's office also continues to investigate the case.

Omo said he lost everything in the fire, including all his business records and a dog and cat. He broke windows to try to get to the pets, cutting his hands in the process and sustaining burns on his face. Part of his beard was singed off.

"There's just so much damage, because it was so hot in there," he said.

Fire Chief Steve Hinds said the fire call came in around 2:45 p.m. Firefighters from Bath, West Bath and Brunswick Naval Air Station were able to keep the fire contained to Omo's two-story home.

"There was a lot of fire there," Hinds said. "It was really going when we got there."

The chief said he knew immediately that the home belonged to Omo, who he has known for years.

Omo said he was shoveling snow off a deck outside the house when he smelled an electrical odor, thought the origin might be his hot tub and went to turn it off. He saw the fire in an office at the northeast corner of the first floor. The breaker is on the outside of the building, about four feet from an office window at the northeast corner of the first floor.

When he got there, Omo could see the fire.

"I went in to try and get pets and see what was going on," he said. "That's where the fire was, and I couldn't make it to the office."

A contractor for 15 years, Omo said he had nearly finished remodeling the building he started working on when he moved in five years ago.

His girlfriend, Sarah, and her 5- and 13-year-old children live with Omo, but were not home at the time. Omo is staying with his brother, Andy Omo, owner of the Fairhaven Inn in the north end of Bath.

He said he plans to tear down the remaining structure and rebuild on the property, since trying to restore it after such damage would be difficult.

"Where it's at now, I'm not going to put the effort into trying to rebuild it, because I know what it takes to do that," Omo said. "The point where it's at right now, it would be the same money for me to tear it down and start over. So I would say it's a complete loss."

Bath City Manager Bill Giroux said on Dec. 11 that people at City Hall were "devastated" by the fire. "We'll do everything we can to help Jamie and his girlfriend and their children," he said.

Giroux said the call has gone out to city employees and councilors to make cash donations through a short-term fundraiser, to help the family through the holiday season.

"I'm sure that there will be other efforts in the community for longer-term help," he said. "This is a tight-knit community. People always step up and help each other."

On Tuesday, though, Omo said he prefers that donations instead go to other people in similar situations. An account for this purpose, with Omo as trustee, will be established at First Federal Savings.

“If somebody gets burned out and needs some clothes, we’ll have some money to give them so they can get that,” he said.

Omo said he can manage financially, hence his desire for others to receive the money. Still, he said his girlfriend’s children could benefit from gifts.

“If people want, we’re looking for stuff for the kids, just to kind of give them a real nice Christmas, so that stuff will be welcomed,” Omo said. “But as far as cash donations go, we’re just trying to collect as much of that as we can and to help people that really, really do need it.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.