WHITEFIELD — Ten people who escaped a Tuesday blaze that destroyed their 452 Mills Road home have found temporary shelter with relatives.

The family of Ted and Sarah Rideout, including six adults and four children — one 3 months old — fled the two-story home when the blaze was discovered some time around 4 p.m. during the blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow in the area.

“I think it started down in the basement. I don’t know if it was electrical,” said Ted Rideout, who turns 62 on Thursday. “I was laying on the couch, and my wife was sitting on the chair playing on the phone. My daughter was cooking supper. My daughter hollered ‘fire,’ then (my wife) hollered ‘fire.'”

Rideout said his daughter raced to the basement where her three sons, ages 7, 9 and 13, were playing games on an Xbox the oldest got for Christmas.

She was able to get the boys outside, but Rideout’s son and girlfriend and their newborn had to escape through a second story window onto a bedroom roof and then climb to the ground. “They couldn’t come down the stairs,” Rideout said.

Several family members, including his wife and son, Ben Knox, ran outside without shoes. Rideout said Knox was barefoot and had suffered some frostbite on his feet. Rideout’s daughter also suffered a small burn on her hand, he said, adding that both were recovering well.


“There was people all around us trying to comfort us,” he said. Neighbors tried to get the family to come into their homes and others offered shelter in their cars.

Rideout said the family lost three dogs and two cats in the blaze and were able to save two dogs, one of which had been put in an outside kennel by the 13-year-old just seconds before the fire was discovered.

“It’s just devastating,” he said.

Rideout said he went to his sister’s home and then his son’s house in Randolph. His three grandsons went with their father, his daughter went with her sister, and Knox went with his girlfriend’s parents.

Rideout said the cellphone company replaced several of the family’s cellphones that had been destroyed.

The Rideouts did not have homeowners’ insurance.


“We have insurance covering items inside the home,” Rideout said. “It’s nothing great, but it’s something.”

He said he was talking with an adjuster, and that he hoped to be able to rebuild on the property where the Rideouts have lived since April 1995.

He also said a niece, Sandra Carrier, is hoping to organize a benefit for the family.

The blaze rekindled early Wednesday and an excavator was brought in to spread out the materials and try to prevent it from burning again.

“As far as firefighting efforts, that went flawlessly thanks in big part to the mutual aid companies,” Whitefield Fire Chief Scott Higgins said from the site on Wednesday. Volunteer firefighters from Alna, Chelsea, Jefferson, Pittston, Somerville, Whitefield and Windsor fought the blaze in cold, snowy and windy conditions.

Many of them were readily available because they were at home as a result of the blizzard.


“We never lost water,” Higgins said. “The guys rotated in and out. The only problem was we didn’t have coffee. There were no stores open.”

Higgins said Whitefield Fire Department Capt. Tim Yorks was the first firefighter to arrive on the scene and found the structure fully involved and already partially collapsed.

In addition to the house, the fire destroyed a camper/trailer, a shed and some vehicles parked on the property. The tail lights on one camper had melted because of the heat, but firefighters poured water on it to prevent it from going up in flames, Higgins said.

Higgins said a cause of the fire had not been determined.

On Wednesday morning, steam rose from the charred embers and the smell of burned material permeated the area.

Higgins remained at the site most of Wednesday, talking to Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to workers from the state Department of Environmental Protection, who arrived to handle a small leak from the oil tank.


Grimes said his office was called because of the report of the injury.

Neighbor Michael Farrell, whose house is about 50 feet away from the Rideout home, said Wednesday he was grateful for the efforts of firefighters and others who helped prevent the blaze from spreading to his home. He pointed to blackened trees a few feet from his back door to show how close the fire had come.

“There was a birch tree on fire and it almost burnt my house,” he said. “The switching wind saved me.”

Farrell had been ordered to leave his home because of the proximity of the blaze and fled with his prize mandolin until dropping it in the snow to get his dog out of the street.

“I was panicking,” he said. “I was sure my house was gone.”

Farrell, 68, is retired and occasionally gives music lessons.


Farrell said he reported the blaze.

“When I first looked out, the end of the (Rideout) house was on fire,” he said.

Farrell was allowed to return home about 11 p.m. after Central Maine Power Co. workers restored power to his house.

He said he heard a series of metal cylinders, aerosol cans and bullets go off as various items caught fire.

Betty Adams — 621-5631


Twitter: @betadams

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