DALTON — Spencer Cantrell was a fiercely independent man, those who knew him said. He was so independent that his brother said when he and his wife made an offer for Cantrell to come live with them in a spare room in their home last year, he turned them down and stayed in his trailer just up the hill.

Early Wednesday morning, a fire in that trailer claimed the life of Cantrell, 74. According to a press release from the office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, an investigation determined Cantrell was smoking in bed at the residence on Weaver Road off of U.S. 411 south of Chatsworth. The fire, which occurred around 1 a.m., was ruled accidental.

Frank Cantrell said his brother lived alone with a cat and when his wife offered a spare room, he would have nothing of it.

Everett Long, who lives on the backside of the hill behind Cantrell’s trailer, said he was awakened by pops of sound he described as similar to “busting open a paper bag filled with air.” He said when he went out on his back porch, he saw flames coming from the windows of the trailer and called 911. The Murray County Fire Department responded, but it was too late to save Cantrell.

“I turned on the porch light and walked outside and the fire was already pouring out of the windows,” Long said. “They said by the time I called 911, he was probably already dead. He was a great neighbor. Never bothered anyone and pretty much kept to himself.”