KENNEBUNK, Maine — The Gould family was settling in for the night Friday when they heard what they thought were firecrackers going off.
Kim Gould looked out the window to see an orange glow coming from a window on the other side of the house, and then she and her husband, Mike Gould, heard their house guests yelling, “Fire, fire, get out!”
As area fire departments raced to the scene, Kim Gould broke through sheetrock with her bare hands and feet to get back into the burning home to make sure her elderly parents, who live on the other side of the house, made it out safe. She also took the time to grab a few sentimental possessions belonging to their late son, Jacob, while Mike Gould hurried to get their six dogs and two cats out.
With everyone safely outside, all the Goulds could do was watch as the house they built in 2004 and raised their four children in burned down.
Still, Gould said, it wasn’t the worst thing to happen to them this year.
“After losing Jacob, this fire is nothing,” he said.
It has been an unusually hard year for the family, as their 16-year-old son, Jacob, died in January from complications of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
And then came Friday night’s fire.
The family lost everything they owned in the fire, they said, with the exception of a few sentimental items that Kim and Mike Gould both feel Jacob played a role in saving. One was the quilt Kim Gould sleeps with, which is made from a collection of Jacob’s shirts.
“Firefighter Jay Byron found it saved under a piece of sheetrock that preserved it from going up in flames,” she said.
Firefighter Chris Welch also salvaged Jacob’s music box, a picture frame snow globe which was presented to him by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Mike Gould speculates that the fire started in the chimney when fallen twigs and branches entered it from the outside and were ignited by the heat and embers remaining from a small fire the family had going in their fireplace earlier in the evening.
“When the fire made it to the oxygen in the attic space, it just touched off,” Gould explained.
The Red Cross is assisting the family with vouchers and money for clothing and necessities, and The Red Barn Inn kennel in West Kennebunk has stepped up to care for their dogs.
Their neighbors, Dr. Earl “Bud” and Debbie Freeman, have offered their home so the Goulds can have a temporary place to stay, while Kim Gould’s parents will be staying with their daughter Sammie, who lives close by.
“These folks are our neighbors, and Bud and I agreed, without question, that if they would accept, our spare bedroom was theirs,” Debbie Freeman said. “Having been through a fire of our own in 2013, we appreciated the generosity of family and friends then, and pay back was due.”
As the Goulds wait for information about their insurance, they say they are taking it one day at a time and trying to have faith.
“There is supposed to be a purpose for everything,” Mike Gould said.
“Maybe Jacob is trying to tell us to stop dwelling, hold onto the memories we have of him, and start out fresh,” Kim Gould said.
The Goulds’ sister-in-law, Mary Ambos Levie, set up a fundraising page to help the family recover from the fire at http://www.gofundme.com/akmijo?forcedesktop=1.
In addition, Tom Couming, who for years has operated the CAN DO recycling program in Kennebunk, set up an account in the Goulds’ name at the Kennebunk recycling center so people can donate recyclables to help the family.