Ex-mayor collapses, dies while fighting fire in Georgia town

MAXEYS, Ga. (AP) — A former mayor of a Georgia town has died while fighting a fire that destroyed his wife's business in a historic building.

Maxeys Mayor Warren Gilson tells The Athens Banner-Herald that William “Bill” Winkle died Saturday.

He lived with his wife, Rachel Winkle, in the rear of Maxeys Country Store, said Gilson. The store sold antiques and collectibles.

When the fire started sometime after 9 a.m. Saturday, Bill Winkle tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, Gilson said. Unable to bring the fire under control, Winkle went to the Maxeys Volunteer Fire Department next to the store.

“He tried to get another fire extinguisher and he apparently had a heart attack and passed,” Gilson said.

Firefighting volunteers arrived and attempted to revive Winkle but were unsuccessful, Gilson said.

The destruction of the business and the death of Winkle, who served as mayor from 2012-16, are “a tremendous loss” to the small Oglethorpe County town, Gilson said.

The antiques store operated out of a century-old, two-story brick building. Winkle was in the process of selling the building, and a contract was already in place, the mayor said.

Gilson said firefighters from at least five fire departments responded with nine fire trucks.