April 21, 2018
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Officer rescues woman before Saturday morning fire destroys Holden farmhouse

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

HOLDEN, Maine — A Holden police officer rescued a woman from an early-morning blaze that destroyed the 2½-story farmhouse she and her three children lived in.

There were no fatalities or injuries from the fire that scorched much of the building at 45 Rowell Road known locally as The Howard Farm.

“A woman called 911 and Penobscot Regional Communications Center at 4:57 a.m. and said her house was on fire and she couldn’t get out,” Holden Public Safety Director James Ellis said. “Officer Ken Dowling was on overnight patrol and was the first to respond. He helped her open a window on the first floor and pulled her out to safety.”

Catherine Gignac, 45, was treated on the scene for minor smoke inhalation but did not have to be taken to a hospital.

The farmhouse is owned by James Howard, but it was daughter Gignac and her three children — two boys, ages 12 and 15, and an 18-year-old daughter — who were living there. None of the children were home at the time of the fire.

Fire crews arrived at 5:10 a.m. and reported heavy fire visible with flames coming through the roof.

“Part of the wood frame house is still standing, but it’s a total loss along with all possessions,” Ellis said. “There were no smoke detectors and she had no insurance.”

The cause of the fire is not yet known. The State Fire Marshal’s Office will begin investigating next week, Ellis said.

Gignac and her family had three dogs, two of whom died in the fire. Two adjacent barns housing equipment as well as goats and geese were saved by fire crews responding from Brewer, Eddington, Orrington, Dedham, Bradley, Bangor and Hampden.

Gignac’s vehicle also was destroyed in the fire.

“It required a lot of tankers,” said Ellis. “The nearest fire hydrant was more than a mile away, so we had to use tanker shuttles with a rural hitch that allowed us to hook up two tankers and once and get a water flow of almost 900 gallons a minute.”

The American Red Cross also responded to the scene.

An account to help the Gignac family will be set up at Bangor Savings Bank’s Brewer branch on Monday morning, according to family friend Amanda Albert. The branch is located at 425 Wilson St. and can be reached at 989-1944.

For more information on how to help the family, contact Michele Archambault at 249-5276 or Amanda Albert at 989-2942.

Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. Catherine Gignac, not Grignac, was helped out of The Howard Farm. The photo captions mistakenly said the farm is on Powell Road; the story correctly referenced Rowell Road.

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