The Poitras family’s home in Buxton was heavily damaged by a fire on Sept. 16. Since then, the support from the community has overwhelmed the family. Chad Poitras, who grew up in Buxton, owns two local funeral homes and is on the board of selectmen. From left: Chad, Cheryl, Mathieu and Sofia. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The fire was barely extinguished when the Buxton community started showing up at the Poitras family home. 

A friend stopped to offer Chad and Cheryl Poitras and their two children a place to stay. In a local Facebook group, neighbors looked first for news that the family was unharmed, then offered gift cards and clothing. Some talked about setting up fundraisers.

Everyone seemed to want to do something.

“The community wanted to stand with them to build them back up,” said Jennifer Barschdorf, who has hosted the family since the fire. “Chad has helped so many people through one of the hardest times of their lives. It’s very nice to see people giving to them as well.”

Chad Poitras, who grew up in Buxton, owns two funeral homes and serves on the town’s board of selectmen. Always humble, he and his family help the community in quiet ways and support people as they grieve, said Cindy Meserve, who first met Poitras when a family member died.

“They are the most compassionate, loving people, who you trust with all your heart,” she said. “It only takes a few minutes to understand they care. They’re that kind of neighbor, they’re that kind of family, who can make you feel at ease any time.”



The fire broke out at the house on Warren Road just after 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, while Cheryl Poitras and her children, 14-year-old Mathieu and 10-year-old Sofia, were home. They got out of the home with their four pets without any injuries.

The first Buxton firefighter arrived on scene less than 5 minutes after the 911 call. Seeing smoke coming from the rear of the house, he called for backup from Hollis, Limington, Standish, Gorham and Goodwins Mills. Crews used 2,000 gallons of water to contain and extinguish the fire.

Chad Poitras rushed home to find a chaplain and first responders comforting his family. He knew many of them already through his role with the town, but he’d never had such an up-close view of their work.

“Everyone was so well trained and so professional and so courteous,” he said. “Most everything is ruined, but they were still delicate with everything. They were very good at making it easier on us.”

Buxton fire Chief Nathan Schools said the fire was accidental, caused by an electrical issue. There were working smoke detectors in the house. The fire damage was largely to the primary bedroom suite where the fire started, but there is extensive smoke and water damage throughout.


“They’re not going to be under their own roof for a while,” Schools said.

The fire caused at least $250,000 in damage, Chad Poitras said. They’re still meeting with structural engineers, working through the insurance process and trying to salvage what they can. He and his wife don’t know exactly what will come next, but they plan to stay on the property where they have been raising their children.

“One way or the other, we’re going to rebuild and live right here,” he said. “I can’t imagine living any other place.”


In the days after the fire, the family heard from people beyond the Buxton-Hollis area. A Boy Scout troop in Massachusetts promised to get a new uniform for Mathieu, who is active with the troop in Buxton. Members of the B0nny Eagle cheering community found Sofia a uniform and pom-poms in time for her next cheer event.

Over the years, the Poitras family has seen the community step up to help others – and been part of those efforts – but it has been so overwhelming to experience it when they are the ones in need of support.


“It was almost like the olden days where everyone pulls together to help out,” Chad Poitras said. “It’s unbelievable. You really know in these communities that your cup overfloweth, with all the blessings people have placed upon us.”

Lisa Pierce, Chad Poitras’ assistant at the Buxton funeral home, wasn’t surprised that offers of assistance came from far beyond his immediate neighbors.

“There are a lot of people who want to help because of all the people he’s helped over the past few years,” she said. “It’s really great to see.”

To give the family privacy, Meserve stepped in to field questions and collect donations. She has lists of people who are willing to clean up, help rebuild or pitch in some other way. In time, she hopes to organize a community gathering to support the Poitras family.

“We want to make sure they’re surrounded by the people who care for them the way they’ve cared for us,” she said. “The community is holding tight to pitch in with whatever is needed.”

Cheryl Poitras, a nurse at a Standish elementary school, is overcome by emotion when she talks about the love that’s come pouring in.


“You don’t expect the person who has nothing to give you $20. It’s amazing,” she said. “Yes, I lost everything. But what did I lose? I lost stuff. The thing that’s important is that all of us came out OK.”

The outpouring has shown Mathieu and Sofia Poitras how important community is, their father said.

“There will be other tragedies for other people in other areas,” he said. “When something happens, it’s important to show your support to them.”

The family is thankful for – and humbled by – all that people have done for them, but say they hope that people now will marshal those resources for others in need.

“We’re in a lot better position than a lot of people are,” Chad Poitras said. “I want people to take the opportunity to check fire safety things, to check their insurance to make sure they have full coverage, and to just be there to help others in their time of need.”

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