OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The fire that destroyed the Doucette home was still smoldering when word began to spread around town that the family needed help.
The Doucettes, known in town as enthusiastic and frequent volunteers, lost all of their belongings Saturday evening when their house on Harmon Avenue burned.
Within hours, the superintendent sent emails and made phone calls to every family in the school district, friends put out a list of needed items and residents began dropping off clothes, toiletries and gift cards.
Donations poured into a GoFundMe page set up for the family and surpassed the $10,000 goal within 24 hours.
“The family is so grateful for this generosity. They’re overwhelmed with how much people have stepped up,” said Rose Bowdoin, a friend of the Doucettes who is helping coordinate donations and has been in contact with the family. “They’re in shock and awe about everything that is happening.”
The fire at 19 Harmon Ave. started in the basement about 5 p.m. Saturday.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office said Monday that the fire was caused when Devin Doucette, 21, tried to use wooden matches to exterminate ants in the basement. Fire officials say one of the matches ignited nearby combustibles and fire quickly spread to the rest of the house.
Doucette, who was the only person home at the time, was treated for smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his hands and arms.
He was burned when he tried to carry burning items out of the house. The family dog and several cats were killed in the fire.
Charges are not likely to be filed against Devin Doucette, according to the fire marshal’s office.
He was treated and released from a local hospital, but was being treated again for his burns Monday, friends of the family said.
His parents, Maurice and Barbara Doucette, who own the home, were in Massachusetts when the fire broke out. Their daughter Joyce is a sophomore at Old Orchard Beach High School. Their other son, Noah, is backpacking across the country.
Shortly after the fire, John Suttie, school superintendent and principal at the high school, got a message from the school resource officer letting him know that a student’s family had been affected. School officials got in touch with a couple of parents who know the Doucettes, and within hours of the fire Suttie sent out districtwide messages asking for help for the family.
“We’re a small community. When something like this happens, it’s nice to see people step up for the family,” Suttie said Monday.
“Everyone knew within 10 minutes what had happened and how to help. It goes to show you the power of community and the power of technology and social media.”
The Doucettes declined through friends to speak with a reporter Monday, saying they were overwhelmed but grateful for the outpouring of support from their community.
The family has lived in Old Orchard Beach for 16 years and attends St. Margaret’s Church, where Moe Doucette volunteers with the summer camp. He also picks up food donations each week for the local food pantry. Barbara Doucette was a longtime Girl Scout leader in town.
“They’re always the ones running the concession stand and the first to volunteer,” Suttie said.
On Monday afternoon, Bowdoin and Erica Albair, the friend who set up the GoFundMe page, loaded two large bins full of donated items into a truck and picked up an envelope stuffed with gift cards and cash that had been dropped off at the high school.
A group of volunteers – some of whom know the Doucettes well and others who don’t – were cleaning and painting a temporary apartment that a resident is allowing the family to use through May.
“I can’t explain how awesome the community is to do all this for them,” Bowdoin said.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: