GARDINER — Eric Baker’s mother flagged him down Tuesday on the Gardiner-Randolph bridge to break the bad news.

The mobile home he and his family have been living in while they have been building their home had burned to the ground.

Firefighters from the region were called Tuesday afternoon to the wooded property on Blueberry Hill Lane. When the fire was out, all that remained of the 38-foot mobile home was a bent and warped base and two propane tanks; even the aluminum siding burned away. Bits and pieces of their belongings remain — a few pieces of clothing, part of a kitchen chair, a half-burned notebook that contained important business papers — in the blackened circle that’s now marked off with caution tape.

“Everything is pretty well cooked,” Eric Baker said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Office of State Fire Marshal, which did not return a call for comment Thursday afternoon. Gardiner police Chief James Toman said the fire is considered suspicious in nature.

Baker, 34, said the family had been home only briefly Tuesday, stopping there after visiting his mother in Pittston for the Fourth of July holiday and bringing her a load of wood. He had cleared his tools out of his truck and left them at home to make room for the wood.

“Every damn thing burned,” Baker said. “All I have is some wrenches.”

The family’s dog survived the fire, as did six chickens that were pecking around the fire scene Thursday; although without a coop, its unclear where they can stay out of reach of predators.

Baker said he’s disabled with a bad back and leg. His wife, Kristie, 25, does some light carpentry and roofing jobs, but she said she has no jobs lined up right now.

The fire punches a hole in their dream of living close to the land, in a log cabin in the woods.

“We like to stick to ourselves,” said Kristie Baker, 25. “It’s peaceful here. It’s perfect.”

The Bakers have been working on the cabin since last winter, clearing brush and cutting white oak on their 5-acre lot for the structure. They have been planning a two-story, 30-foot-by-30-foot building with a loft upstairs and a garden on the south side.

“We want to do the homestead thing,” he said. Their goal is to have an orchard and a pond. Already they have access to the wild raspberries that populate the woods and the blueberries in the field at the end of the lane. They also hunt and fish. Eric Baker said his firearms were in the mobile home when it burned.

“We want to have solar power and homestead,” he said. “Live as free as an American is supposed to.”

Even the older two children, ages 7 and 5, have helped out by clearing brush from the site. Eric Baker said that’s important because he was bounced around when he was growing up, and he wants to give his children a sense of home. They also have an 8-month-old.

The Bakers recently had finished digging a trench for the concrete footings for the foundation, but the water used to fight Tuesday’s fire washed over that area, filling in some of the trench with loose soil.

Eric Baker has been hewing the logs by hand. Each one takes about a day of hard work, he said.

“We want to make as much as possible by hand,” Kristie Baker said.

He said they would work during the day and come home to work on building their log home in the evening.

“Now we have no place to live,” he said. “This sets us back big time.”

They had planned to have the building enclosed by winter.

“He gets frustrated,” Kristie Baker said of her husband. “But I know what he’s capable of. We feed each other and boost each other up whenever we need it. It helps to be best friends with your spouse.”

She said they are getting better at dealing with tough times.

“His father committed suicide. My father committed suicide. We lost a child. And they have brought me back a couple of times,” Kristie Baker said.

In May, Eric Baker’s grandfather, Fred Pushard, 88, lost his home on Pushard Lane to fire, after an explosion apparently sparked a fire behind the garage.

The American Red Cross of Maine sent a disaster action response team to meet with the Bakers and to provide some initial lodging support.

“We give them the means to stay temporarily at a hotel, but they can use that money for lodging, clothes or food, whatever they need,” said Justin Burkhardt, regional director of communications for the Red Cross. The Red Cross also will offer supplemental support if it’s needed, he said. That could include help to replace prescriptions or glasses, for example, or counseling, if that’s needed.

“Each family that’s affected by fire has different needs,” he said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]com

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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