Darren Morse walks around the house he shared with his partner and three children that was destroyed by fire Thursday morning in Whitefield. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

WHITEFIELD — A Whitefield family lost its house to fire Thursday, after which members of the community swooped in to offer much support.

Cathy Nguyen, who lived at the house at 736 East River Road with her partner, Darren Morse, and their three children, called the Fire Department at 2:30 a.m. after the second floor bathroom exhaust fan caught fire.

Firefighters were on the scene until 6:30 a.m., according to Chief Scott Higgins of the Whitefield Fire Department.

Nguyen, Morse and their children watched the house go up in flames, according to firefighters. The family’s two dogs were able to escape without injury, but a cat perished in the blaze.

Although she was thankful no one was hurt, Nguyen said later Thursday she just wants her house back for her children’s sake.

“We are so thankful for the community,” Nguyen said. “Everyone is messaging us and asking what they can do. But in the long run, we need a home to take our kids to. Our world is here together.”


Eight fire departments responded to battle the blaze.

Higgins said Whitefield automatically calls the Jefferson, Somerville, Windsor and Alna fire departments, and also called in Pittston and Chelsea firefighters and the Lincoln County Firefighter Strike Team for assistance.

“It was a lengthy fire,” Higgins said. “It was a lot of wood and a lot of fire.”

Nguyen and Morse have lived in Whitefield for about six years, and Morse grew up at the house. The house had gone into foreclosure while they were living there, Nguyen said, but they were in the process of buying it back. She said the house has been in Morse’s family for more than 100 years.

Nguyen and Morse have three children — two daughters, 11 and 4, and a son, 8 — and they had taken in a family friend, who was living with her two daughters in an apartment above the garage of the house. On the night of the fire, the family friend had only one daughter with her and they both escaped unharmed.

The garage is intact and still standing — the families gathered in the garage during the day Thursday — but has no running water or electricity, Nguyen said. They were afraid to run the propane tank after what had happened to their house, she added.


The couple’s children were with friends Thursday, while family members and friends stopped at the fire-damaged house to drop off blankets, clothes and food. Sheepscot General Store & Farm gave the family a basket of food and $125 to spend at the store.

The Red Cross gave the family $825, according to Nguyen, who works at Otto’s on the River, a restaurant in Augusta, and Morse is a stay-at-home father.

“If I go to work, I can make more money for my home,” Nguyen said. “I’m a bartender and server, and make money on a daily basis. If I go to work, I can set aside money for a home. All the other things will fall into place, like clothes and toys, but we need a place to go together.”

As of Thursday, Nguyen said they did not have a place to stay, although they had received offers from family members and friends. The family living above the garage also is not staying there.

“We want our kids to know that we will get through this,” Nguyen said.

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