GARDINER — A house belonging to a woman known for fostering hundreds of children and helping others was destroyed by fire early Sunday.

The property of Barbara Veregge and her family, located at 28 Fairview St., is considered a complete loss, according to Fire Chief Al Nelson of the Gardiner Fire Department.

No one was injured in the blaze, which was reported at about 4 a.m..

Nelson said there were six or seven adults at the house — some residents, others visitors — when the fire was reported.

Amber Arsenault, one of Veregge’s adult daughters who does not live at the house, has started a fundraising effort on Facebook to help the family recover from the fire.

Arsenault said her mother was a foster parent for about 50 years, helping some 200 children. Many of the children stayed at the house destroyed by flames Sunday morning.

Veregge has recently been working with special-needs adults, and sewing protective masks for health care workers, according to her daughter.

Gardiner firefighters confer Sunday morning after battling a blaze at 28 Fairview St. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The fundraising page reports Barbara Veregge lost everything in the fire.

“Our mother spent her life dedicated to children,” the page reads. “She would provide a safe home for children within the foster care system, and for so many individuals and families afterwards. This woman would give you the sweater off her back, and her shoes if you said you didn’t have any. If you know Barbara, you know that there is every bit of truth behind this.”

Arsenault said money raised in the fundraiser, which has a goal of $20,000, would go to Veregge to help pay bills and replace clothing and other items. The home was insured.

By Sunday afternoon, the same day as the fire, the fundraiser had raised more than $1,700.

“This community is so kind and gracious. The outreach has been overwhelming so far,” Arsenault said of the response.

The fire appeared to have begun on the back side of the house, according to Nelson, who said an investigator from the Office of State Fire Marshal responded to the scene and said the fire was probably started by someone who was smoking.

Nelson said he was not sure whether the residents had a place to stay, but said the Red Cross had been contacted to assist the family.

When firefighters arrived, Nelson said, the fire “was heavily involved in the back side of the house, and it got up into the roof area.”

“There were several layers of shingles on the roof,” the chief said. “This made it harder because fire got up in between those layers, so we had to dig into the layers of the roof to make sure we had everything out.”

Firefighters from Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph, Augusta and Farmingdale responded to the blaze. They were at the scene until about 10:30 a.m.

The ranch-style home was about 60 years old, according to city assessing records.


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