OAKLAND — Kirk Mullen had lain down in bed to take a nap Tuesday night when his girlfriend woke him up, screaming about a fire at the camper next to their mobile home on Sawtelle Road.

Mullen rushed outside to find the camper where his friend Bill Halley had been staying engulfed in flames. He wrapped himself in a tarp and tried to go in to save his friend.

“I grabbed the tarp, threw it over me and tried to get him like three times,” said Mullen, 40. “I couldn’t. I had to walk away.”

Halley, 46, died in the fire around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Office of State Fire Marshal is investigating and attempting to determine the cause of the fire, according to a news release Wednesday from Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland. He said investigators are looking closely at the camper’s propane heater.

Meanwhile, friends of Halley’s, including Mullen, described the traumatic experience of watching their friend die as the camper went up in flames and being unable to save him.

“I can’t imagine drowning or burning to death,” said Thomas Brooks, who lives in one of a handful of mobile homes on the property at 42 Sawtelle Road. “While you’re in a fire, what are you thinking? I’m melting? I’m done? Like, this is the end of my life. That has to be a tragic situation. I can’t even imagine.”

By Wednesday, Brooks and his wife, Beverly, had started a GoFundMe fundraiser for Mullen, whose mobile home was damaged badly in the fire, and to pay for Halley’s burial.

Brooks said he was at home Tuesday and was alerted to the fire by one of his daughters. “My kid came in screaming about a fire out back, but by the time I came out and around the corner, it was engulfed,” he said.

He said Mullen and another friend tried to rescue Halley, with Mullen telling him to give him his hand and he would pull him out of the fire. But he said Halley seemed unable to move.

“They said he was screaming and stuff, but I couldn’t hear it,” Brooks said. “He was probably too far gone. It was really sad. It’s just one of those things you don’t want to witness.”

Mullen said when he came outside, he could see Halley just beyond the door of the camper, near a propane heater. There were flames coming out the door, which he described as a short door that forced any adult to stoop to pass though the doorway.

He said he thinks the fire may have originated from the heater. The rest of the camper was in good condition and everything was working, he said.

“I think he was cooking or something and maybe spilled some grease or something,” Mullen said. “We had a couple of drinks yesterday, but nothing — we drink every day, but we don’t drink to get drunk.”

He said Halley also had an apartment in Belgrade but had been staying at the camper to help with hauling junk and odd jobs. On Tuesday they spent the day working around the property and clearing junk from the yard, then had a couple beers before calling it quits, as it was getting dark, Mullen said.

“He was just in the house 10 minutes before and he was totally fine,” he said. “He came in and used the bathroom and walked back out. Ten minutes later, I’m running out the door.”

Halley’s brother, Paul Ashbrook, was also at the property Wednesday to talk with his friends and see if they had heard anything about the cause of the fire. He said he wasn’t close with his brother, but “I wasn’t expecting this.”

Halley leaves behind two grown children, both in their 20s, Ashbrook said. “I got a phone call saying your brother is gone, so I called his son and told him, ‘Your father is gone,'” he said.

As a cold wind whipped across the snow-dusted yard Wednesday afternoon, Mullen and his friends poked through the remains of his mobile home.

For now, Mullen, his girlfriend, Sarah Landry, and their 2-year-old daughter are staying at the Fireside Inn in Waterville.

Their home has smoke and water damage, and Mullen said he’s unsure whether they’ll be able to salvage any of their belongings.

“I was in shock,” he said about the fire Tuesday. “All I could think about was getting my buddy out of there, my best friend. I tried the best I could and I couldn’t do it. It’s a f—– up deal. It’s hard.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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