Family left homeless after Rumford fire

RUMFORD — A mother and her three young children escaped from their burning apartment on Wednesday morning, after one child accidentally set her bed on fire while playing with matches, according to a neighbor.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rumford and Mexico firefighters and chiefs watch Rumford firefighter Jeff Harren soak smoking eaves after ripping boards apart at Wednesday morning's fire in an apartment at 25 Erchles St. in Rumford's Brick Park neighborhood.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

While a firefighter at the second-floor window of a burned apartment at 25 Erchles St. in Rumford on Wednesday morning radios for help with a hot spot in the eaves, Rumford and Mexico firefighters below move a ladder into place for another firefighter.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

While Rumford firefighters work Wednesday morning to root out a hot spot in the eaves of a two-story duplex at 25 Erchles St. in Rumford, neighbor Cindy Tuttle watches firefighters while taking care of seven German shepherd puppies in the tub and one of two adult German shepherds that firefighters rescued from the apartment. Tenant Jennifer Moody and her three young children safely escaped the burning building and went to Rumford Hospital on their own to be checked out, Tuttle said.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

While mopping up at an apartment fire at 25 Erchles St. in Rumford on Wednesday morning, Rumford firefighter Jeff Harren smothers and soaks a hot spot in the eaves above the second-floor window of a children's bedroom that caught fire.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

One of seven German shepherd puppies rescued from Wednesday morning's fire at owner Jennifer Moody's apartment at 25 Erchles St. in Rumford stares up at Moody's neighbor and impromptu puppy-sitter Cindy Tuttle, while Rumford and Mexico firefighters wait for other firefighters to mop up hot spots.

While firefighters from Rumford, Mexico, Dixfield and Peru worked to extinguish the 7:45 a.m. fire at 25 Erchles St., neighbor Cindy Tuttle said the mother, Jennifer Moody, had taken the children to Rumford Hospital to be checked.

"Jen ran to my house with her kids and we stuck them in a vehicle to make sure they were all safe," Tuttle said while standing watch over Moody's seven German shepherd puppies — all in a large red plastic container — and the puppies' father, Mickey.

Firefighters rescued the puppies and their parents, after knocking the fire down, according to Rumford fire Chief Robert Chase. The family pets were unharmed.

"There were flames shooting out of the windows right upstairs," Tuttle said when she first saw the fire.

Looking at a broken-out, blackened second-floor window, she said the room behind it was the children's bedroom in the two-story duplex in Rumford's Brick Park neighborhood.

"Their bed was right here," Tuttle said, pointing to the window, "and the little girl was playing with matches."

Chief Chase, however, said his department had yet to establish the cause of the fire that caused roughly $30,000 in damage to Moody's apartment.

"It can be fixed," Chase said. "It's interior finish damage. Nothing structural was damaged."

Chase said the initial 911 call dispatched to Rumford's station where only two firefighters were on duty, came in as a bedroom accidentally set on fire.

Deputy Chief Chris Bryant and Lt. Sylvanus Glover were the first to arrive, followed by Chief Chase and Mexico fire Lt. Alan Chartier.

Rumford and Mexico fire departments and Med-Care Ambulance have a mutual aid agreement.

Needing additional manpower quickly and before more Mexico firefighters arrived, Bryant called for Rumford's ladder truck crew, and then Dixfield and Peru firefighters.

Bryant, Glover, Chase and Chartier were met with "heavy fire from the second-floor bedroom, with fire extending into the eaves," Chase said. They also couldn't verify if the second apartment in the building was unoccupied, so Chase sent a second team in to search it. No one was home.

According to a clerk in Rumford's tax assessor office, building owners Donald and Erica Cavin live in the second apartment.

Chartier and Chase entered Moody's apartment and were met by the two adult German shepherds, who quickly laid on the living room couch as the fire raged upstairs.

He said that while fighting the fire, they learned there were seven puppies in the basement.

"After we got the fire knocked down, then we got the puppies out of the basement," Chase said.

The building sustained heavy smoke damage throughout most of the second floor, while the first-floor kitchen directly below the bedroom had water damage, he said.

No firefighters were injured, but a child suffering from an asthma attack about an hour after the fire was taken to Rumford Hospital by Med-Care, Chase said. He didn't know if she was a bystander or one of Moody's children.

The Red Cross was contacted and is making arrangements to help the family.


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 's picture

When Police Chief Stacy

When Police Chief Stacy Charter was Public Safety Diector for the brief period the selectmen had a public safety director, he gutted the fire department while adding to the police department's budget. The selectmen have not settled the fire departments contract and are runninf 2 men per shift and it has nothing to do with vacations or days off just ill conceived budgeting. 16 full time people in the police department and they are always too busy at the station to respond to calls. A lot of us have called and been told no one is available or got sick of waiting and driven to the station to find three or four officers, spouses and children running around in the station having a good old time on our dollar. After 4 you can count on three or more vehicles parked in the alley and all the officers on duty inside where they can not be seen since the building is now locked after 4PM. Chief Carter built up his little empire but at the risk of life and property of the citizens. We could cut half the police department (see NCIC crime statistics online) put our fire departmrnt where it belongs and still save money. The other big problem is with the call force. The mill can't let people leave for calls any longer. A lot of call man moved away when their regular jobs disappeared and to make matters worse a few years ago someone got the bright idea to pay the call force once a year. Would you work an entire year before getting paid? The selectmen need to reinstate a sensible pay schedule and recruit a call force. We got lucky this time and there were no serious injuries or loss of life. next time could be a different story. Selectmen, how about some common sense adjustments in our public safety departments before we have a tragedy?

If we could only return to common sense...

 's picture

it is time to look into

it is time to look into combining the local fire ,police depts. in the 70's there was 9000-10000 people in rumford around 6000 in mexico now we are lucky to be around 9000 together .

ERNEST LABBE's picture

The firefighters did one

The firefighters did one hell of a save on the building. according to Federal standards there have to be 19 firefighters on scene before anyone can enter a burning building. It is a shame that a town the size of Rumford has only two paid firefighters on duty.

The tiny town of Oxford has four on duty from 6 AM to 6 PM Monday thru Friday and two on duty on weekends. They do share duties between the fire and rescue departments. Perhaps it's stime for other towns to be looking at a better staffed fire department.

 's picture

It is not a small apartment

It is not a small apartment it is half of a duplex- the unit is as a large, if not bigger, as an average sized house. 2 floors, a basement and a full size attic.

 's picture

Thank the good Lord everyone

Thank the good Lord everyone , pets included, made it out safely.


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