CARIBOU, Maine — A deadly fire Thursday morning at the West Gate Villa mobile home park claimed the lives of a mother and her three young children.

Killed in the fire were 28-year-old Norma Skidgel and her children, 3-year-old Trenton Delisle, who would have turned 4 next week, and 2-year-old twins Mason and Madison Delisle, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

The four victims were found by Caribou firefighters in the back bedroom shortly after a neighbor reported the fire about 7 a.m., McCausland reported in a news release issued Thursday afternoon.

He said Skidgel’s sister Amy Bouchard and her two sons also lived in the mobile home. Bouchard and one of her sons left the mobile home a short time before the fire to go to a school bus stop and the trailer was on fire when she returned. Bouchard’s other son had spent the night elsewhere, McCausland said.

Bouchard was taken to Cary Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation after she tried to get back into the mobile home, McCausland said.

The bodies of the four victims were to be taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta for autopsy and examination likely to take place Friday.

A team of investigators was on scene by late morning examining the charred debris of the home in an effort to determine a cause.

McCausland said investigators found a smoke detector inside the mobile home, but the battery had been removed. He added that it was not clear whether there were any working smoke detectors in the home.

One neighbor in the mobile home park said she was with her own child at the bus stop when the bus pulled up and children on the bus were “looking out the window and screaming about fire.”

Standing outside her own home about 100 feet from the burned-out trailer later Thursday, Ashlyn Clark, 22, said she “turned around, started running and called 911.”

Clark described seeing smoke pouring from the home as she waited for fire crews to arrive.

“The front looked full of smoke and I knew where the back window was,” Clark said. “I wanted to be there to direct rescue people to it if they needed me to.”

Her neighbor Christine Burby said she was sleeping when she heard her phone ring.

“I looked out the window and just started screaming,” she said. “I saw the fire and it seemed like it lasted just a second.”

Neither woman knew the trailer’s occupants beyond exchanging greetings when they passed each other outside, they said.

“I had just seen the kids yesterday and talked to their mom,” Burby said. “They seemed like good people.”

A somber Milo Haney, who lives down the road, said he saw the surviving sister outside the mobile home.

“She was just full of soot — just black, black, black,” he said.

Haney said he could see the smoke from C&J Service Station, the business his sons own just up the road, and that at first he was worried it was an apartment building he owns near the trailer park.

“I got here and saw that whole trailer in flames,” he said. “Everyone was standing around saying there were kids inside so I knew there was not going to be a good outcome.”

Steve Thibodeau, who was with Haney on Thursday morning at the scene, spoke of how hard he saw Caribou firefighters working to get everyone out of the home.

“I’ve lived in a trailer all my life and never had a fire,” Clark said. “Something like this really hits home and you really see when it happens, it happens quick. This is a reality hit.”

Clark did not keep her son home from school Thursday after he had gotten on the bus, she said.

“I didn’t think it would be this bad, all we saw was smoke at first,” she said. “But I am going to hug him hard tonight.”

Burby said she has not let her own 1-year-old daughter out of sight since the fire.

“They are all going to need our prayers now,” Clark said.

Speaking about the impact of the fire, Thibodeau said to Haney, “Old fellows like us, it don’t make a difference. But those three kids never had a chance.”

At least 30 firefighters from Caribou and Limestone were called to the fire scene, and Presque Isle firefighters covered the fire station.

It was the second fatal fire in as many days in northern Maine.

On Wednesday morning, Patrick Deignan and his dog died in a St. Francis house fire likely caused by his use of flammable liquid to start the wood stove, according to the state fire marshal’s office.

The Thursday morning blaze in Caribou is the deadliest in modern times in the city and occurred less than three weeks after a fire at an apartment house in Portland claimed six lives, McCausland said.

State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said that in light of the fire deaths, Maine residents should make sure their homes have working smoke detectors, and that families review and practice fire escape plans.

Aroostook Republican & News writer Natalie De La Garza contributed to this report.


Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.