ANSON — Thirteen-year-old Adriana Garcia returned to her apartment on Thursday for the first time since a fire to see what was left of her bedroom. It was a blackened cavern.

On the charred floor was a box that workers had stored the few things that could be salvaged, including roller-skates and nail polish.

Ever since part of the four-unit apartment building at 166 River Road burned on Monday night, Adriana and her mother, Lori Fisher, 44, have been sleeping on couches at the Madison home of Fisher’s mother.

What was not destroyed in the fire smells strongly of smoke, including a Christmas tree decorated the day before the blaze.

Even though Christmas is a little more than a week away, Adriana said she doesn’t expect it to be harder because people have been giving her clothes and items to make up for what she lost.

“It was kind of like Christmas already,” she said.

Her mother is clearly proud of her. “She amazes me,” Fisher said.

Adriana belongs to Madison Area Junior High School’s group called Friends of Rachel, which tries to replace bullying at school with kindness. It is named for Rachel Scott, who was the first person killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

So what’s one thing Adriana wants for Christmas? A Rachel Scott T-shirt to support her school’s group and help end bullying. One of the T-shirts states, “I am going to have an impact on the world,” according to the Rachel’s Challenge website.

Adriana said the hardest thing for her was the death of her kitten. She had it three days and had yet to name it when it died in the fire.

“When everyone brings up the cat and stuff, that makes me sad inside,” she said.

As a single working mother, Fisher said it’s still sinking in that she lost nearly everything. The Red Cross donated to the tenants and the property owner, Victor Carrigan, but “the economy is really tough right now. People don’t have a lot to give,” she said.

Fisher works at MAC Residential Services, an assisted living facility in Embden, and said her co-workers have been kind and giving.

“I’m a very independent person. I’ve never really asked for help, so my plan is to go back to work and start over,” she said.

Despite what she’s lost, she said she feels awful for her landlord, who was notified the day of the fire that his insurance had expired. The fire originated with a candle and left five people homeless.

“We can go get another apartment if we have to,” Fisher told Carrigan on Thursday. But, “this is your home.”

Fisher was at work at the time of the fire, which was reported around 7:15 p.m., and her daughter was at her grandmother’s house. She said she is grateful no one was hurt, and “thank God that (Adriana) was not home.”

Ryan Hawley, 22, who lived in the apartment below them, was leaving his workplace in Skowhegan on Monday when he got a call from a friend who told him his building was burning down.

“I’m like, ‘What?’ At first it was kind of like, ‘Are you joking with me?'” he said.

When he got home and saw the scene, “It was chaos,” he said, with firetrucks and firefighters covering the property.

Though firefighters stopped the flames from reaching his apartment, his things are covered with soot and smell of smoke. His guitar was ruined. He said he hasn’t slept more than a couple hours a night since then.

But he said he knows he’s fortunate. He is staying with his parents in Madison, and he has work at the Rent-A-Center in Skowhegan where his colleagues have helped by giving him some items.

He is trying to stay positive. “With every unfortunate event, there’s always a better thing to arise from that,” he said.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

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