2017-03-24 / Community

With much support, family moves forward after fire

By Molly Lovell-Keely
Managing Editor

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Maurice Doucette of Old Orchard Beach received a call Saturday, March 18 that no one wants or expects to get. His home caught fire and it was a total loss.

“My wife and I and my daughter – she’s in a travel soccer league, Velocity – were at a tournament in Massachusetts. I don’t have a cell phone so my wife received the call,” Doucette said. “She started screaming and fell to the ground. I took the phone and it was the police from OOB. ‘Is Joyce there?’ they said. Joyce is my daughter. ‘Is Joyce with you?’”

“They had searched the house for her body,” Doucette said of his daughter, a student at Old Orchard Beach High School.

Police told Doucette that his 21-year-old son Devin had been in the Harmon Street home when it caught fire, but that he was safe. Three of his four cats, a turtle and Doucette’s dog had perished in the fire.

“I’m meeting with my monsignor tomorrow,” Doucette said during an interview Monday, March 20. “My wife and I are very religious. You don’t realize how overwhelming this is.”

The fire started under the stairs in the basement of Doucette’s home in a storage area that contained Christmas decorations and under carpet padding. Devin lived in the basement and became trapped when fire blocked the stairs into the house.

“He went to the outside door but because of snow, it was blocked,” Doucette said. “He tried to get some water bottles to put it out but it kept on spreading.”

The room started to fill with smoke.

“He broke all the windows in the cellar to get some air. Once he let all the oxygen in, it was all flames. He’s lucky it didn’t crate a backdraft,” Doucette said.

Finally, Devin was able to break the door open and escape, along with one of the family’s cats, Moxie, the only animal to make it out of the home alive.

Devin carried a roll of engulfed carpet padding out of the house when he escaped, which burned his hands severely, Doucette said.

“He put it out in the snow, but it was too late. The fire had spread,” he added.

Devin also tried to save the family dog, Ginny.

“He went to the deck where the kitchen door is and could see her. He tried to call to her but it was engulfed now. She ran into our bedroom,” Doucette said, calling Ginny his best friend.

“My neighbor went after Devin and dragged him away. I guess he was screaming, ‘I gotta save my animals.’”

A member of Good Shepherd Parish, Doucette said it is through the grace of God and support from friends and family he’s able to move on.

A volunteer with OOB365, Doucette has spared countless hours grilling at The Ball Park, helping out at community dinners and playing Santa Claus at holiday events.

Through the help of resident and business owner Sharri MacDonald, the Doucettes are staying in a newly renovated suite at the Alouette Motel on East Grand Avenue. Owner Fred Kennedy offered the ocean front room at a deep discount, McDonald said.

“She’s my guardian angel,” Doucette said of MacDonald.

MacDonald has known Doucette for about 15 years.

“This is really devastating for them, but they know the whole community is behind them,” MacDonald said. “He’s a giver in the community. If you need a hand, he’ll do anything. The whole family is great – it gives me chills to talk about it because they’re just good people.”

When news about the fire broke, MacDonald said friends started contacting her immediately.

“We take care of each other at OOB365,” she said.

A Go Fund Me page was established that aimed to raise $10,00 for the family and in one day, nearly 200 people had raised more than $11,000.

Friends and family also stepped up to find an apartment for the Doucette family, where they’ll be able to stay for two months. Donations will pay for oil and electricity for the apartment, and brand new furniture and beds have already been donated.

An employee in the circulation department of the Courier for 14 years, Doucette also works at Hannaford in South Portland. The company, along with longtime customers, have donated clothes, gift cards and will make a monetary donation to the family’s efforts to rebuild their lives.

“Four or five years ago I was battling cancer. I had 19 inches of my intestines removed and Hannaford was there then too,” he said, crying.

The family lived at 19 Harmon Ave. for 12 years and Doucette said they plan to rebuild. He also hopes Moxie, the cat that escaped the fire, will return to the site of his former home.

Losing his animals was difficult for Doucette, who said he thinks they sensed that something dire was going to happen.

“When we left Saturday morning for the soccer game I walked Ginny. She went and laid on her bed and looked at me like, ‘I’m not going to see you anymore.’ I saw it in her eyes. I said, ‘That’s a strange look.’ And I kept on wondering all day. Why did she look at me like that?”

Doucette’s youngest son, Noah, 18, is backpacking throughout the U.S. and is staying in Texas. An Eagle Scout with Pack 310 out of Saco, fellow Scouts are organizing a benefit dinner for the family and encouraging the community to donate clothes, toiletries, household items and gift cards.

Doucette credits the American Red Cross for being on scene before the fire was even extinguished, and being there for Devin, until the family arrived home. Doucette wants to thank a number of people – some of whom he only knows by first name – who have helped the family.

“The Doucette family says thank you to everybody in OOB and beyond,” he said. “God was looking after us. A building can always be rebuilt but God protected what was truly important.”

To help

To donate to the Doucette family, visit www.gofundme.com/doucette-family. Donations can also be dropped off at MacDonalds Garage, 37 Saco Ave., Old Orchard Beach.

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