John “Jack” Murray, 62, who was rescued from his burning apartment May 23 in Augusta, has died of his injuries.

A spokesman for the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office said Murray’s death was reported to that office Friday morning.

Murray had been listed in critical condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he was taken almost immediately after being pulled from his smoke-filled first-floor apartment in Augusta by an owner of a nearby funeral home.

Augusta Fire Department officers said Murray suffered smoke inhalation as well as burns.

The fire heavily damaged the eight-unit building and displaced 14 tenants.

Fire marshals investigating the blaze classified it as accidental. They said the origin was cooking-related and that it began in Murray’s apartment.

The building’s owner, Ryan Chamberland, said Friday that state investigators and a private investigator all concluded that the fire stated either in a stove or a toaster oven, which were near each another in the kitchen. However, the damage to that room was too extensive to pinpoint the fire’s source further.

Michael Murphy, who works nearby at Plummer Funeral Home, saw smoke at the apartment house as he was driving to work and went to check, pulling Murray out through a window.

Murray was coherent and talking shortly after his rescue, witnesses said.

Rick Walter, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Winthrop, where Murray had belonged for about a decade, said he and a number of family members and close friends were in Murray’s hospital room Thursday night when Murray was removed from life support machines.

Walter described Murray as “a very happy person. It was amazing. He had all sorts of health problems. He was blind, but no matter what kind of a day he had, he was always cracking corny jokes.”

The blindness came in the past several years, Walter said. Murray frequently wore dark glasses.
Walter said Murray was originally from Massachusetts and had been a sniper with the Marine Corps, serving several tours in Vietnam.

Murray liked to cook, Walter said, and might have done it for a living at some point.

“He was always offering to help do things for other people,” Walter said. “He was a people person. He was very well known and very well liked.”

Murray has relatives both in and out of state, Walter said.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Plummer Funeral Home.

Chamberland said the cleanup at the apartment building has begun, and he is awaiting an electrical and plumbing inspection. He also has hired an architectural engineer to evaluate the building and make recommendations about rebuilding.

“The city wants us to rebuild because of the depletion of apartments in the Augusta area,” Chamberland said Friday. He said he is looking for energy efficiencies and cost efficiencies.
The building itself is more than 160 years old.

Murray had told Augusta Code Enforcement Officer Gary Fuller that he was concerned about the safety of his apartment. Fuller said Murray called two days before the fire to request an inspection, without specifying what his concerns were.

In the meantime, Chamberland said most tenants displaced by the fire have found replacement housing. One is living with friends and another is looking for housing through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com