ST. JOHN PLANTATION, Maine — Firefighting crews from two towns were unable to save Normand and Theresa Nadeau’s home from the fire that destroyed it Sunday night, but they were able to salvage at least one precious item from the smoking rubble.
Late Monday morning a member of the Fort Kent Volunteer Fire Department located the small, heart-shaped urn in which rested the ashes of a daughter of the Nadeaus who fell victim to cancer just over a year ago.
“We lost everything we had,” Theresa Nadeau, 78, said Monday as she and her husband, Normand Nadeau, 79, surveyed the damage. “But we are safe and by some miracle, they found that urn.”
The Nadeaus were working at their job cleaning at Al’s Tastee Freeze in Fort Kent when a coworker told them a fire had been reported at their home on St. John Road, Fort Kent Fire Chief Edward Endee said from the scene Monday.
The call came into the fire department at 9:37 p.m. and by the time crews arrived, the residence was fully in flames, he said.
Twenty firefighters with three pumpers and a rescue unit from Fort Kent went to the scene, with mutual aid from the St. Francis Volunteer Fire Department, Endee said. Frenchville’s department provided mutual aid as the on-call department covering the Fort Kent area.
Crews fought the fire until 2 a.m., and returned later that morning when the fire flared up from a hot spot, Endee said.
The state fire marshal was at the scene Monday and determined the cause and origin of the fire would remain unknown given the amount of damage to the structure.
The house is owned by the Nadeaus’ daughter and son-in-law Anna and Clayton Soucy of New Hampshire and the elder couple does not know if it is insured.
“We think it may have started in the living room area,” Theresa Nadeau said. “But we don’t know how — there was nothing on and we don’t smoke.”
The Nadeaus will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary next month and Theresa Nadeau said they had lived in the house for about five years.
“We’ve really lost a lot,” she said. “We just have these clothes that we were wearing yesterday and we are still wearing them today.”
Despite the loss, the Nadeaus were grateful for the firefighters’ efforts on their behalf and for the fact no one was hurt.
As her youngest daughter, Norma Nadeau, clutched the small urn containing the ashes of her sister, Theresa Nadeau was philosophical about the fire.
“This is the way life is sometimes,” she said.
“We always fight every house fire like it’s one of our own houses,” Endee said. “There is not much we can do in a fire like this one except to protect the surrounding area, so when we find something like that urn it gives a little light to all of us.”
The Nadeaus are staying at Northern Door Inn in Fort Kent while they decide what to do in the wake of the fire.