Heat lamp ignited fatal fire

Melissa Watership

Melissa Watership

BAR HARBOR — A house fire Feb. 24 that left one person and a pet dog dead is believed to have been caused by a heat lamp, according to a statement from the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Melissa Watership, 46, died after being rescued from the house by firefighters.

The fire has been ruled accidental, officials said. Watership’s husband, Matthew Cough, was out of the home at the time of the fire. Her two children were out of state with their father.

No formal memorial service is scheduled, according to Acadia Veterinary Hospital where Watership used to work.

Many community members brought flowers and cards to the vet hospital in the days following the fire. Messages on social media told stories of her caring, positive attitude. She helped many families through difficult times with their pets.

“Matthew Cough and family have been reading all of your condolences and wanted me to let you know they are deeply touched,” a post on the vet hospital’s Facebook page says. “The family welcomes all mourners to join them at Jordan Fernald Funeral Home in Somesville on Friday, March 4, for visiting hours from 5-7 p.m.”

Watership “likely was either distracted or taking a nap when the fire broke out,” state police spokesman Steve McCausland wrote in a statement.

The heat lamp was being used to keep baby chickens warm.

“Watership had obtained the chicks that morning and had placed them in a sawdust-filled box in her bedroom, which is the room where the fire started,” McCausland wrote. “The fire was started by either the lamp tipping over or being placed too close to the box.”

Firefighters found Watership in the kitchen. She was unresponsive when they brought her outside on a stretcher and administered CPR. She was taken to nearby Mount Desert Island Hospital in an ambulance, where she was later pronounced dead.

There was fire damage to the bedroom and heavy smoke damage throughout the rest of the one story house, McCausland said.

The house is owned by the Lester E. Bunker Jr. Trust, according to town records. Under Maine law, landlords have responsibility to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in rental units, but it’s up to the tenants to keep them in working condition.

A cat, Zippy, was rescued from the basement, given oxygen at the scene of the fire and treated at Acadia Vet. The cat is doing well and will be reunited with its family, staff said.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the SPCA of Hancock County.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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