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November 13, 2012

Fire destroys motor home in Augusta, leaves man destitute

Woodard Road blaze on Sunday the latest in series of troubles for Robert Wing, 51

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- Robert Wing knelt and held his Dalmatian, Brie, tightly in front of their charred motor home Tuesday morning, the acrid smell of smoke still in the air.

click image to enlarge

Robert Wing kneels with his Dalmatian, Brie, held tightly in front of their charred motor home on Tuesday afternoon in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

The dog was all Wing had left.

The two had managed to escape a fire that started early Sunday morning in the bathroom of the small Chevy Van 30 motor home, which lacked electricity, running water and heat. A candle sparked the blaze, authorities said.

Wing, 51, had been living in the camper on the Woodard Road property belonging to his father since May.

Wing showered and ate some meals at the next-door home of neighbors Susan Gagne and Michael Williams, who have befriended him.

That's where Wing ran to get help about 6 a.m. Sunday when Brie's barking alerted him to the fire.

"I turned around and there were flames coming through the back of the bathroom door," Wing said.

He grabbed Brie, threw her out the driver's door and followed right behind. He raced to the Gagne/Williams home a few yards away and started pounding on their door to get help.

"The RV went up so quick," Wing said.

The Augusta Fire Department responded to the fire call and was assisted at the property on the shore of Togus Pond by firefighters from Chelsea and Vassalboro, said Augusta Battalion Chief Dave Groder.

Groder said the fire that destroyed the motor home was apparently started by a candle in the bathroom. Wing said he got up earlier to use the bathroom and lit a candle so he could see.

The Red Cross put him and his dog up for a couple of days at an Augusta hotel, but that ends Wednesday.

Wing doesn't know where he'll live next -- it might be in his Jeep, which is where Brie spends a lot of time. Williams took the keys from Wing and saved his Jeep by moving it away from the fire.

Wing said the dog helps him cope with severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I won't get rid of Brie," Wing said. "That's all I know."

Wing has had a number of setbacks recently. He said problems at his house in Bradley, including a dispute with the town, forced him to leave there and move back to his native Augusta, and he missed a crucial appointment with a doctor who had been prescribing him medical marijuana.

Wing also has criminal charges pending in Penobscot County Superior Court and is worried about getting a ride to a hearing there this week since his Jeep might not be able to make the trip.

Wing said he used to work with drywall and sell hardware in Augusta until he suffered a back injury and then a car accident further complicated his physical problems.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

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