ATHENS, Maine — Within hours of losing their home, three of their pets and all of their belongings in a fast-moving fire Thursday morning, a family of four already had been provided a place to stay and volunteers’ plans were coming together to start construction on a new house.
“It was a 100 percent loss. These people lost absolutely everything,” Athens Fire Chief Jamie Stafford said Thursday afternoon.
He said Dwayne and Mary Brown and their two sons were away from home about 9:40 a.m. when a neighbor spotted smoke billowing out of their Valley Road home and called for help.
The fire, however, spread quickly and ultimately leveled the balloon-framed house, which was not insured, Stafford said.
“The whole downstairs was more or less open and there weren’t very many walls to stop it,” he said. There was little that firefighters from Athens and nearby Cornville, Harmony and Wellington could do, he said.
Stafford said he didn’t plan to call the State Fire Marshal’s Office for an investigation because there was too little left to examine.
One of the Browns’ dogs was able to escape when the neighbor opened the door, but three other dogs and a cat died in the fire, Stafford said. Avid sportsmen, the Browns also lost about 40 rifles, three kayaks and a new motorbike, Stafford said.
Stafford said the Browns are being assisted with short-term needs by the local chapters of the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. He said friends and neighbors are rallying around them for the longer term.
“We’re a tight community and everyone is friends with everyone else,” the chief said.
The family is being put up in a camp owned by Malcolm Prosser, safety officer for the Athens Volunteer Fire Department, Stafford said. Athens Corner Store is collecting donations, which also can be mailed to the Fire Department at P.O. 241, Athens ME 04912, he said.
Volunteer firefighters are planning a fundraising dinner, a typical move in a small town.
Less common, however, is that Stafford, Mike Brown, Bob Vigue and other Athens firefighters are gearing up to build a new house for the Browns using donated materials and labor. Though they already have provided some of the building material, anyone who can help can drop additional material off at 7 Eaton Corner Road, he said.
“Most of us are carpenters,” he said, adding, “We’re all good friends of the Browns.”