FORT FAIRFIELD – Investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office are still in town looking into the cause of the second of two fatal fires in just two days.
“So my daughter and I left probably about 6:05 p.m. and we did not notice anything going on over there. And I was still in town, maybe about seven minutes away, five to seven minutes away and my husband called to tell me the neighbor’s house was completely engulfed in flames,” Katie Crane, who lives next door to the home that burned down on Sam Everett Road, said Wednesday.
Another neighbor across the street called 911 Tuesday night after someone stopped by to let him know about the fire.
“The house, that corner, about a third of that wall, picture window and everything was all engulfed,” said neighbor Mark Pelletier. “The fire was already coming out the side of the house going up in the roof, the rafters. And ahh … it was bad.”
He added, “I thought if there is anybody in there, they’re going to have a rough time coming out.”
Their neighbor, 39-year-old Hope Phillips, was still inside and died in the blaze, along with a dog and a puppy. Her long-time boyfriend, Jeffrey Chasse, returned home after the home was ablaze. She was the second female resident to die in a fire this week.
According to State Fire Marshals, the body of 90-year-old Dawn Findlen was found in the rubble of her farmhouse across town on Densmore Road after an early Monday morning fire.
Wayne Troicke, vice president of the frontier Heritage Historical Society, said before Findlen’s husband, Bill, died last year, the two were very active members, and their home was filled with antiques.
“Everything was burnt. It was a total loss,” Troicke said. “The most important thing that was lost was Dawn.”
The farmhouse was heated with wood but the fire was so extensive, fire investigators say they don’t believe they will be able to determine the cause.
“At this point in time we’re waiting for the fire marshal to do their investigation, continue that,” said Police Chief Shawn Newell of the Fort Fairfield Police Department. “Nothing is leading us to believe it’s anything suspicious. I just think it’s a very unfortunate set of events.”
Crane said some in town are worried.
“It’s stirring up some nervousness. People are wondering,” Crane said.
She added, “I really think it’s super tragic, and everybody is kind of reacting to that.”
“The folks who have been working these scenes are very dedicated to their jobs, and I hope they’ll have answers to the community as soon as possible,” the police chief said.
Pelletier agrees the town is grieving.
“It’s hard, it’s hard, especially for this town,” he said at the scene, shortly after talking with fire investigators. “You know, everybody is thinking about it. It’s a reality. It can happen in these colder months.”
He added, while he knows he could not have helped his neighbor, he continues to wish he could have done more.
“It’s hard when you realize someone was in there,” Pelletier said.