SKOWHEGAN — A well-liked and respected cinema projectionist who worked 17 years at Pittsfield Community Theater died Friday in a mobile home fire, marking the first fire-related death in Maine in 2018.

Skowhegan police on Saturday found the body of William Lashon, 53, inside his home at Harvey’s Mobile Home Park off Route 150 after a relative and neighbor reported they had not seen him since before Thursday’s snowstorm.

The fire was confined to a room Lashon had converted into a theater room, according to a news release issued Sunday by Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

Lashon worked 17 years as a projectionist at Pittsfield Community Theater, according to theater manager, Donna Dunphy.

“The community will miss him,” an emotional Dunphy said by phone from the theater Sunday afternoon.

Dunphy, who has worked at the theater about 28 years and hired Lashon in 2001, said he was a hard worker, and well-liked.

“He did a little bit of everything for me,” she said, adding that he always was willing to work weekends and loved to change the movie names on the marquee.

“Bill is a nice guy — he’d do anything for anyone,” she said.

State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators believe the fire was sparked sometime Friday by electrical wiring in the room, according to McCausland.

After arriving at the scene Saturday, police called Skowhegan firefighters around 1:30 p.m., according to Skowhegan fire Captain Rick Caldwell and Firefighter Daryl Wyman, who responded to the mobile home park.

Caldwell and Wyman said at the fire station Sunday that they were called there Saturday for an odor investigation as police could smell what appeared to have been an electrical burn, though the fire was out when police arrived.

“They told me there was somebody in there, deceased,” Wyman said. “It’s not what we expected to come to. We’re not sure what he was using for heat because his mother said he refused to buy oil. There were kerosene lanterns. I really think he was just overcome from the heat and the smoke. It appeared he may have tried to put the fire out himself.”

A call and email placed Sunday to the state Medical Examiner’s Office seeking the cause of death were not immediately returned.

Wyman said the theater room Lashon’s body was found in had a lot of wires and extension cords, and a lot of items piled on the floor.

“He had like a projection screen and he actually had movie theater seats and rails,” he said.

While there were kerosene lanterns in the room, they did not appear to have been related to the fire, as they were clean and unbroken, he said.

Once firefighters dug down into the debris, which included computer towers and boxes, they found burned wires, according to Wyman and Caldwell.

They said the fire was not suspicious in nature.

“It’s just a very bad situation,” Caldwell said. “I feel bad for the mom. I know she’s taking it very hard.”

A woman who answered the phone Sunday afternoon at Lashon’s mother’s home declined to comment.

Meanwhile, William Lashon’s yellow trailer with blue shutters sat silent Sunday in temperatures that were in the single digits. A green Ford Ranger pickup truck in the driveway was snowed in, it’s windshield wipers sticking up in the air through the snow.

A snowblower near the trailer was plugged into an outlet on the side of the home. A gray statue of the Virgin Mary was near the step, half buried in snow. A sign near the front door where a bicycle was strapped to a railing said it was a secured premises, under investigation by the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Diagonally across the street in the park, Sandy Knight stood in the cold, saying it was sad that Lashon had died.

“He was the very first person in this trailer park that stopped at my house when I moved here and greeted me and welcomed me,” Knight, a professional photographer, said. “This is my second winter here. He stopped and just said something and kind of welcomed me to the park. He was a very nice man. I just felt so bad that we didn’t get to help him.”

Rhonda York, who lives next door to William Lashon’s mobile home and can see his trailer from her kitchen window, said she last saw him Wednesday, the day before the blizzard. After the storm, he was not plowed out and did not snowblow as he usually does, which concerned her, so she called police.

“My husband went over and knocked and there was no answer,” York recalled. “I was kind of concerned after not seeing movement, day after day. I mean, we saw him every day. It’s just too bad.”

York described Lashon as kind of loner who kept to himself mostly, but they would say “hello” to each other.

Dunphy, the move theater manager, said the theater employs five people including herself, so they all regularly talk about various things. Lashon enjoyed gardening, and he would talk about different movies, said Dunphy, who was working Sunday at the theater.

“I don’t know what his favorite movie was — I know he liked a lot of the sci-fi,” she said. “We are just a small community theater. We all talk and joke around. He was good with patrons that came in. I just let some of them know that he passed and they were kind of devastated.”

The knowledge that Lashon had died was still new, and Dunphy said she had not had a lot of sleep.

She expressed surprise at the way Lashon apparently died, as she said he was very careful when it came to equipment at the theater.

“He was very cautious about everything — very knowledgeable, too — he really was,” she said. “He was my go-to guy.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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