Investigators say a man killed in a fire Sunday night in Gorham had been deep-frying when the cooking oil ignited.

Barry Dunlap, 55, was found dead by firefighters in the kitchen of his home at 8 Bear Run, authorities say.

The call was a hard one for many local firefighters because Dunlap’s family has been active with the Fire Department for years and many of those responding knew him.

“All the firefighters know our family very well,” said Dunlap’s sister, Heidi Thuotte, who heard the initial call on the scanner and got to her brother’s house before the first fire company. “To have it be a part of us, you could just feel it in the call, you could feel everybody was trying so hard to stay focused. They knew what was going on and that we (the family) were there.”

The State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated the fire and determined that Dunlap had been cooking on the kitchen stove when the cooking oil he was using ignited, and fire spread to the kitchen cabinets. Dunlap tried to put out the fire and suffered severe burns as a result, investigators said.

The log home was on fire when firefighters – including one of Dunlap’s nephews – arrived about 6:45 p.m. Sunday.

“We had heavy fire coming from the windows on the first floor, the kitchen area, extending out the front window,” said Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre. “The guys forced entry and found him just inside the door in the kitchen, so we were able to make the rescue within the first five minutes we were on scene.”

“The EMS (emergency medical services) started working on him immediately,” he said. “We tried to resuscitate him.”

The fire badly damaged the kitchen, but fire crews doused the flames before the blaze could destroy the house.

Dunlap had belonged to the Gorham Fire Department many years ago, when he was in his 20s, but other family members were more involved, Lefebvre said.

“His entire family has been a huge part of the Gorham Fire Department for years – his father, his brothers, his mother, his sister,” Lefebvre said.

Thuotte said she was home eating dinner when she heard the call for a fire on Bear Run come across the scanner.

Thuotte rushed to the house and was there before the first firefighters arrived.

“I was screaming, ‘Anybody seen him?'” she said. A small group of neighbors thought perhaps nobody was home because there was no car in the driveway, not realizing that Dunlap had recently sold his car.

Thuotte tried to get the kitchen door open but couldn’t because the flames coming from the window next to it were too intense.

She said her immediate family has experienced tragedy before. Another brother died about five years ago in a fall.

Dunlap grew up in town and he and his grandfather built the Bear Run log cabin on land Dunlap had been given by his parents, part of a large family farm.

Dunlap and Thuotte both raised and trained oxen at one point, taking them to competitions, she said.

“Barry loved to hunt and fish. He was always out in the woods and was absolutely tremendous at it,” his sister said. “People would come to him for advice on how to hunt.”

Dunlap had been fishing with a friend earlier in the day and had decided to go home and make fried clam cakes, she said.

Professionally, he was a skillful small-engine mechanic and worked at a Windham equipment rental center, she said. Dunlap, who was divorced, is survived by two grown sons.

“Barry was the type of person to tell you the way it was. He never minced words,” Thuotte said. “He would tell you exactly what he thought and you knew where you stood.” But he also had a great sense of humor and would keep people laughing, she said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.