Smoke blamed for death of Falmouth homeowner in weekend fire

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FALMOUTH — State fire officials believe Richard Seiler, 73, lost his life Saturday night in an attempt to either put out the flames threatening his home or to save his belongings.

Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Office of the State Fire Marshal on Monday said Seiler succumbed to heavy smoke before the fire that started in the garage of his 22 Gray Road home ever reached him.

Grimes said Falmouth firefighters tried to save Seiler April 21, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The state medical examiner’s office has since determined that Seiler died of smoke inhalation, Grimes said.

Falmouth police were able to save two cats, providing life-saving oxygen to one and transporting both to the vet, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page.

Grimes said the fire started in the engine compartment of Seiler’s two-door BMW convertible, which, according to the Portland Press Herald, he’d taken out for a drive for the first time since the vehicle was removed from winter storage.

The fire quickly spread from the car to the garage to the house, Grimes said. He said the garage is a total loss and that the attached home is “also extensively damaged.”

“We believe the homeowner remained in the house either to fight the fire or retrieve items,” he said. “When a fire starts your best bet is to escape quickly. Most people who die in a fire usually succumb to the smoke because you only have a couple minutes to get out safely.”

The fire was first reported at 5:11 p.m. Saturday, according to the Falmouth Fire Department.

It was initially reported as a vehicle fire inside a garage, but was almost immediately upgraded to a working fire with heavy smoke seen from Mountain Road.

The first officer on the scene then indicated there was “heavy fire in the garage rapidly spreading into the attached house,” the department said.

Portland firefighters were called  when the responding engine from Falmouth could not get close enough to fight the blaze due to downed power lines.

Gray Road was shut down from Exit 53 to Auburn Street in Portland, and the fire was under control in approximately 30 minutes.

Thirty members of the Falmouth Fire Department responded. In addition to Portland, they received assistance from the Westbrook, Cumberland and Yarmouth fire departments.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Richard Seiler, 73, died in a fire at his West Falmouth home over the weekend. The fire started in the garage and spread to the attached house.