Matthew P. Woodcock and his wife, Ann Hinds, were in downtown Augusta last Friday when they learned their home in Farmingdale was on fire.

They shared the mobile home at 871 Northern Ave. with a half dozen other people, including Hinds’ parents. And eight animals — four dogs and four cats — also lived there. The pack included a dachshund and a miniature Labrador retriever that helped Hinds, 27, who suffers from depression and seizures, the couple said during an interview this week.

A friend gave them a ride to Northern Avenue, and Woodcock, 21, immediately sprinted past the parked fire engines to the back of the home.

“I was trying to figure out what was going on with our animals,” he said. “They were service animals to my wife, and they were loved ones to me. I took them as my child.” Then referring to the dachshund, he added, “I raised Carmella.”

But Woodcock’s frantic actions in trying to help save the animals later would prompt police to arrest him. Officials accuse him of interfering with the emergency response despite several warnings to stay away, putting firefighters at risk.

“I was arrested for trying to help get my animals out of the house,” Woodcock said Tuesday. “It was five or six firefighters in there, and they were all worried about one animal at a time, when they could have (taken) care of just about every animal that was in there all at once. Then they started handing them to me. That’s when a cop came and grabbed me and said I was obstructing government maintenance. Then he said I was resisting arrest when I tripped over a fire hose.”


None of the animals who lived in the home survived, and Hinds choked up when describing her service dogs. She has started an online fundraiser to cover their cremation costs.

Hinds said she suffers from depression, anxiety and seizures, and the dogs were trained to comfort her and help her through seizures.

It’s been “very, very hard” since they died, she said. “I’ve been having wicked bad depression of not having them around. I’ve been in a lot of pain. … One of the things is for them to sit with me, and that’s hard. I have to go through it myself. I’m very nerve-wracked.”

A Kennebec County sheriff’s deputy charged Woodcock with obstructing government administration and refusing to submit to arrest or detention. Woodcock, who was on probation for a theft charge early this year, then was taken to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta, Sheriff Ken Mason said. He was released Tuesday and has an initial court appearance scheduled for next week.

In an interview Tuesday, Mason expressed sympathy to the family and the turmoil they must have been going through, recalling the devastation when his own family’s camp caught fire when he was a teenager.

But Mason said Woodcock was singularly focused on his animals last Friday and that his behavior put multiple people at risk.


The deputy “completely understood how overwhelmed he was,” Mason said. “But his behavior was not helping things. He would not calm down.”

Reported at 10 p.m. Friday, the fire displaced all eight of the home’s residents, including Woodcock and Hinds; Hinds’ father and stepmother, Morris and Michelle Tanger, who owned the mobile home; Hinds’ stepsister, Megan Stockley; and other roommates.

Michelle Tanger declined to speak with a reporter Tuesday. According to Hinds, her father is paralyzed from the waist down and had to be dragged out of the home.

He was taken to the hospital for medical attention but was released in healthy condition, said Mike LaPlante, assistant chief of the Farmingdale Fire Department.

LaPlante added that the family received three smoke detectors as part of a giveaway by the department, and that those detectors had helped them get out of the home safely.

The American Red Cross has put the displaced residents up in motels this week, but they are not sure where they’ll be able to stay after this week, Hinds said.


Hinds said the fire might have been the result of a cigarette that blew onto the home’s porch, but the state fire marshal’s office, which is investigating the cause, didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

In the interview, Woodcock said he prefers to be called Anthony Robinson, which he said is his birth name. He also disputed the charges against him, saying that he was helping the firefighters and wasn’t resisting arrest when police tried to keep him away from the burning home.

According to Woodcock, when he arrived at the mobile home, firefighters handed him dogs that had been pulled from the burning home.

“They were handing me dogs from the back porch, so why would I get arrested for them handing me my animals?” he said.

But Mason characterized that moment differently, saying Woodcock “apparently snatched (a dog that was close to death) right out of a fireman’s arms and ran off to a lawn somewhere.” While the response to the fire had been calm before Woodcock’s arrival, Mason said, “he made the scene a little more chaotic.”

A deputy tried to keep him out of the building and calm him down, but he ran back to the building several times, Mason said. The deputy eventually placed Woodcock in handcuffs, but he allegedly tried to run away, Mason said.


That’s when police arrested him.

“This is not something that we want to do,” Mason said. “We all understood that these type of situations just hit people, but there’s only a limit that we can go to. We have to protect the firemen. We have to protect the public, and we had to protect Mr. Woodcock.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

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