June 24, 2019
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‘A lot of memories in this house’: Maine couple laments fire that destroyed family home

Alex LaCasse | Portsmouth Herald
Alex LaCasse | Portsmouth Herald
Stephen and Lori Lauckner spent the last five years renovating the back of their home at 67 Whipple Road, the home Stephen has lived in since 1971. The home was heavily damaged in a recent fire.

KITTERY, Maine — Stephen and Lori Lauckner spent the last five years renovating the back of their home at 67 Whipple Road, the home Stephen has lived in since 1971.

Lori had just overseen the installation of the kitchen of her dreams from when she married Stephen after the passing of his first wife, nearly 20 years ago.

In an instant on March 31, the vision of their addition was destroyed when a fire broke out on their front porch. The couple did not yet know if their insurance company will rule the home a total loss, but Lori said the home was declared an unsafe structure.

“I’ve been waiting 15 years and my kitchen was finally done. That was the first room I hit when we were able to go inside with the Fire Department and it was really hard to see,” said Lori, a retired special educator at Noble High School. “I was in the kitchen, I fed the dog and was getting ready to start dinner. I saw smoke out the kitchen window and I thought it was from the shipyard. Next thing I knew there was more and more smoke and it was the front porch on fire.”

Since the fire, the family has been staying with one of Lori’s daughters in Lebanon. She said the couple is grateful for the support they have received from their friends, family and neighbors. She said their insurance company was looking for accommodations for the couple while their home is being rebuilt. In less than a week, an online fundraising page set up by a family member has raised nearly $5,000 in donations from community members to help the Lauckners recover. She also said The Farm restaurant in Kittery hosted a fundraiser for the couple, but she did not know the exact amount that was raised.

“Family, friends and people don’t even know to donate toward this and help us in any way we can. Everybody reached out asking us what they can do to help us and it’s been incredible,” she said. “We have always been givers our whole lives. So it feels a little strange to be taking donation from others’ generosity, but we really are so grateful.”

Stephen, a retired Portsmouth Naval Shipyard worker, said additional testing needs to be done on the house to determine how much hazardous material such as asbestos and lead paint were present in the structure before making a final determination on whether the home can be salvaged.

“We were attached to the place, we raised two families here. We have great neighbors,” he said. “It was built in 1920, we’ll either rebuild it or build a new house here. It’s a great location, and my wife loves looking out on the water to see the lobster boats.”

Lori said the fire likely started when she discarded a cigarette in her receptacle and claimed the high winds and the dry air caused other filters inside the receptacle to ignite.

“I put it out in the bucket and stuck it deep in the bucket and went in to start dinner,” she said. “I think the filters on top were dry enough where it might have taken, and I’m having a hard time dealing with it. The insurance adjuster said he appreciated us telling him the truth because he said a lot of people lie because they need a new house or they need extra money. I told him if he saw the money we put into our home, I just finished my kitchen, it was truly an accident. Nobody is prepared to deal with something like this, and Stephen had a lot of memories in this house and I just felt terrible.”

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