CANAAN, Maine — For several terrifying minutes as they witnesses their home in flames late Sunday night, Amanda and Darrin Smith didn’t know where their 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was.
They had just gone to bed at around 11:30 p.m. when they heard her scream. Then their 10-year-old son shouted that there was smoke in the house.
Darrin Smith rushed to his daughter’s bedroom, but intense smoke and heat pushed him back. After pushing his other three children, his wife and a roommate named Mindy Moshier outside to safety, he bolted around the back of the home in search of Alyssa. By then, her room was ablaze.
“I couldn’t get to her,” said Smith.
“I told him to get out so we could run across the street [to a neighbor’s house] and call for help,” Amanda Smith recalled Monday.
Ten terrifying minutes later, Alyssa stumbled across the street, her face blackened with soot. She collapsed at the road’s edge.
“She’d been crawling around on the lawn, trying to get away from the fire,” said her mother. “I just hugged her and asked her if she was OK. We’re extremely grateful that all of our children are OK.”
Alyssa was examined by emergency personnel but was not hospitalized.
She told her parents that she woke up smelling smoke and seeing flickering in her closet, so she broke a window and escaped through it. Disoriented and suffering from mild smoke inhalation, she crawled into the dark.
By the time fire crews arrived, the home was in flames. When they left after 2 a.m., all that remained of the mobile home were a few outside walls and a heap of black rubble. Lost in the fire were three family pets: a dog, a kitten and a rabbit.
“They’ll be very sorely missed, especially by the children,” said Darrin Smith.
Crews from the Canaan, Hartland and Skowhegan fire departments went to the fire, as well as Canaan and Skowhegan rescue units.
Canaan Fire Chief Ray Small said he will begin to investigate the fire today, but that at this point there is nothing suspicious. The mobile home was already lost when fire crews arrived, he said.
“It was definitely just a defense attack on the fire at that point,” said Small.
For the Smith family, the fire is another setback in what has been a difficult period of time. They bought the property in March and inhabited it in May. They had spent the weekend preparing to hook up a water system on Monday. Instead, they had the brand new water pressure tank, still boxed, in the back of a pickup truck Monday afternoon so they could return it for a refund and buy necessities.
With the expense of the water system behind them, they planned to buy homeowner’s insurance this Friday, said Darrin Smith, a satellite television installer.
“We’ve put every penny into this place,” he said. “We were just starting to get back on track.”
“We don’t know what to do,” said Amanda Smith. “We’re out of a house now. The kids don’t even want to go to school.”
But friends and family members were already mobilizing around the family Monday. Several neighbors and Canaan firefighters have offered whatever help they can provide, said the Smiths, and family members are already searching for another used mobile home to replace the burned one.
The Smiths are staying at a local hotel for the short term with plans to move in with Amanda’s parents soon. Having their own home again seems almost impossible at this point, but Amanda said the family will persevere, just as it always has.
“We can always replace this stuff, but you can’t replace people,” she said. “I guess we’ll have to start fresh again.”