WATERVILLE — A disabled woman, her daughter and two grandchildren are homeless after fire late Sunday and early Monday destroyed their rented house and everything they own on Water Street in the city’s South End.

The accidental fire at the two-story single-family home at 144 Water St. was caused by an electrical malfunction in the attic, according to Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office.

Jody Brunson, 52, her daughter, Marybeth, 29, and Marybeth’s children, Booker, 2, and Jocelin, 8, escaped the house with their 9-month-old German shepherd Chloe, 3-year-old chihuahua Pixie, 1-year-old cat Ace, and gray 3-year-old cockatiel Stella.

Jody Brunson said she went back to the house Monday and was horrified by the devastation.

“There’s no ceiling,” she said. “The whole upstairs is gone. We didn’t use the upstairs because we couldn’t afford to heat it. What’s not ruined by smoke is ruined by water.”

She was speaking from the Fireside Inn on upper Main Street where the American Red Cross is putting the family up for a couple of days. They do not know where they will go from there. Marybeth, a home health aide for Assistance Plus, was at work Monday afternoon.

They had lived in the house only about three months.

“We moved up here from South Carolina to be closer to my mother who is in rehab for Alzheimer’s and dementia in Bangor, and Marybeth’s husband walked out on her 30 days later, so we were struggling,” Jody said, sobbing.

State fire investigator Ken McMaster was at the scene Monday morning helping investigate the cause of the fire, which drew firefighters from Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield.

Waterville fire Capt. Shawn Esler said the fire was difficult to fight because of all the nooks and crannies in the oddly shaped house built in 1920 and renovated in 1986.

“Last night the guys were really short-handed,” Esler said Monday morning. “They did a great job. They did the best they could with what they had to prevent fire from spreading to other buildings.”

The fire was reported at 10:53 p.m. Sunday by a man who called 911 after he saw the Brunsons fleeing from the house.

“I don’t know who he was,” Jody Brunson said.

She said she and her family were watching television around 10:20 p.m., and she and Marybeth went outside and smelled smoke. They went back into the house and continued to smell it.

They had blocked off the upstairs and were sleeping in one room on the first floor to save on heating costs, and the downstairs started filling with smoke.

Jody grabbed Booker, the baby, and seized the black and white chihuahua. She also let Chloe, the black and tan German shepherd, out of her crate, grabbed blankets and put Booker and the dogs in the car.

“Marybeth grabbed her daughter and the cat,” she said. “Nobody got the bird. She was in the house for about an hour. Her blanket was soaking wet. She was in her cage, which is two feet by 12 feet deep. The firefighters pulled the whole cage out and they stuck her in one of their trucks.”

She said the bird may die because of respiratory problems related to its ordeal.

Jody Brunson said she hopes to retrieve her sister’s ashes from the house.

“That’s all I have left,” she said. “She died nine years ago. She was my best friend. She was a lot older than I was, so she had always had me under her wing. She was only 50 when she passed. She went to sleep and had a heart attack.”

The family has no clothes, according to Jody Brunson.

“Marybeth got herself an outfit for work, but I have nothing — not even a hairbrush or Fixodent for my dentures,” she said.

Booker wears size 2 or 3T clothing and a size 5 shoe. Jocelin, the girl, wears children’s size 12 clothes and size 6 shoe. Jody wears size 12 clothes for women and size 8 shoe. Marybeth wears size 20 clothes and a size 10 shoe.

At the fire scene Monday morning, McMaster, the state fire investigator, and Waterville firefighter and rescue technician Ryan Johnston worked in frigid temperatures to try to determine the fire’s cause. Johnston had been at the scene all night.

Also at the scene Monday morning was Scott McAdoo, who lives a few houses away.

McAdoo, who watched firefighters work late Sunday and early Monday, said he was listening to his police scanner and heard about the fire and walked over to the scene.

“When I first got here there was a lot of smoke and we finally saw fire,” McAdoo said. “It was going pretty good for a while. We’ve got a pretty good fire department. They were here within a minute or two.”

The windows on upper floors of the home were knocked out and lying on the ground beside the house, which is tucked in between other small houses along the narrow street. Christmas decorations speckled with soot were on the snow beside the house. Holiday bulbs hanging from the front porch were blowing in a cold wind.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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