Family homeless after fire levels Waterford home

Posted Sept. 17, 2012, at 6:23 a.m.

WATERFORD, Maine — Nearly 60 firefighters from five western Maine towns battled an overnight blaze that leveled a three-story home, leaving a couple and their three children homeless.

“We woke up to the smell of smoke and when we got downstairs there was fire creeping up the outside wall,” homeowner Patrick MacDonald said.

MacDonald and his wife, Christina, immediately roused their three children and his sister-in-law, who was staying with the family while looking for an apartment. He said the entire family made it out before he braved going to the basement to turn on an outside hose in hopes of dousing the fire.

MacDonald said there were fire detectors in the wooden home — including one that was hardwired — but they did not alert the family to the blaze. He said there was no electricity when he went to the basement to turn on the outside water supply, which is why he believed the hardwired smoke-detector failed.

MacDonald said the fire was moving too fast for his garden hose and he eventually joined his family outside.

“We’re just happy we’re all together and safe and we’re not hurt. There were a lot of things lost in the blaze, but we all have each other and that’s all that matters.”

Waterford fire Chief Adrien Morin said the fire at 53 Sweden Road was reported shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday morning. He said the structure and attached building were fully engulfed by the time crews arrived on the scene.

Morin said the family lost everything as a result of the blaze. He said firefighters from Waterford were assisted by Norway, Bridgton, Stoneham and Harrison.

MacDonald said the couple moved to Sweden Road nearly six years ago and worked ever since on renovating their beloved home. In fact, both of the couple’s sons were actually born in the home.

“We pretty much spent all our tax returns and every penny we made on the house these last five years,” MacDonald said.

He said Sunday night he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Waterford community. He said neighbors and community members stopped by all day to help the family and offer assistance.

For Waterford Assistant Fire Chief Bill Haynes the fire was a bit more personal than most. The MacDonald’s home — built sometime between 1850 and 1880, according to town records — was the childhood home of his father. It was also the home bought as a wedding gift for his grandparents, Harry and Carrie (Hamlin) Haynes, in 1915 by his great-grandfather.

Haynes said Fire Department officials hope to determine a cause of the blaze, but added it would be difficult due to the level of damage to the structure. Very little was left untouched by the flames, Haynes said.

MacDonald said his father-in-law discovered what he considers a small miracle amid the rubble and ashes Sunday. One tiny section of the home — no more than 3 feet by 4 feet — was charred by flames, but not completely destroyed. From that small section, just moments before it collapsed, MacDonald’s father-in-law was able to retrieve a wedding band that belonged to MacDonald’s late father, an envelope containing cash for the month’s bills and some family photo albums.

“I got everything that I needed out of that house,” MacDonald said. “My loved ones are all safe, and I appreciate everyone so much more today.”

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