June 19, 2018
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Mother, 2 sons homeless after Newport fire

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

NEWPORT, Maine — Michelle Marshall’s bathroom was a little chilly at about 6:45 a.m. Thursday when she put her 5-year-old son in the bathtub, so she flipped on the heat.

Almost immediately, the furnace began spewing smoke, so she shut it down. She still could see the flickering light of a growing fire.

She scooped the 5-year-old out of the tub with one arm and grabbed her other son, 3, with the other. She called the family dog and rushed out the door. She handed her children off to a close friend next door and re-entered the burning building to retrieve two folders that contained the family’s “important papers.” That was just about all she was able to salvage from her rented mobile home at 61 Willow Drive.

A crew from Newport Fire Department was en route to the blaze five minutes after it was reported, according to Amanda Chretien, the department’s emergency services director. Lt. Jason Gaudet was one of the first people on the scene.

“Three-quarters of the trailer was fully engulfed when we got there,” said Gaudet. “It went up really quick.”

Of immediate concern was a propane tank beside the home and a nearby shed, both of which firefighters dowsed with water in a successful effort to save them. After knocking the flames down as much as possible from the outside, firefighters entered the structure to attack the interior flames and see what they could save. Chre-tien said firefighters were able to save a few drawers full of soot-stained clothing, but that virtually everything in the home was a loss. Marshall did not have insurance on her possessions.

“We could see it was pretty much a loss when we arrived on scene,” said Newport Fire Chief Jeff Chretien.

Fire departments from Pittsfield and Detroit assisted at the scene, and the Corinna Fire Department was put on standby in case it was needed.

Marshall, a direct-care worker who assists adults with mental disabilities, said she doesn’t know what is next for her family, but that she hopes to remain in Newport. She said she has come to like the town after moving here from California.

Chief Chretien said members of the department are gathering clothing and toys to benefit the Marshall family. The boys’ sizes are 4T and 11-12. Michelle Marshall said she needs “just about everything,” but that the most pressing needs are clothing and supplies for her dog and two cats. A team from the American Red Cross was due at the scene Thursday afternoon to provide assistance to the family.

“I’m going to take it one day at a time,” she said as workers used a tractor Thursday afternoon to begin cleaning up the ruins of her home. “All I could do was stand in [a neighbor’s] window and watch it burn, thinking ‘Oh my God.’ Right now I’m just in survival mode.”

The Newport Fire Department is collecting clothing and toys for the Marshall family between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Marshall said cash donations may be sent to 61 Willow Drive, Newport 04953.

“The stuff that burned is just stuff,” she said. “I’m just glad my kids got out OK.”

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