Family struggles with loss while salvaging keepsakes

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CANTON — As embers from a house fire still burned Wednesday, a family struggled with the loss of their loved one and tried to recover keepsakes from the rubble.

Mark Blanchette and his daughter Brianna spent the morning digging through debris at the home of Brianna’s grandparents, Norma and Sheldon “Chickie” Campbell.

The fire broke out Tuesday at around 5 p.m. and Brianna’s uncle, Sherwood Campbell, 64, who lived at the house, ran to the Blanchettes’ home to alert them of the fire.

Blanchette and his daughter are former firefighters for the town.

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Campbell lost his life in the blaze after running back inside to save the family’s three dogs, Blanchette said.

Blanchette said he attempted to rescue Campbell from the 2 1/2-story home but Campbell ran to the top of the stairs and passed out from smoke inhalation.

Blanchette said he was unable to drag him from the house.

Campbell’s body was found Wednesday morning in a second floor bedroom with a dog next to him, Tracy Wing, family friend and town animal control officer, said.

According to a report by NECN on Wednesday, State Fire Marshal Danny Young said the fire started in the rear of the home and, based on the time of day, Campbell may have been cooking in the kitchen.

The house and attached barn were considered a total loss, he said.

Blanchette said the house was not insured and they are unsure how the family will afford the clean up from the debris.

Norma and Sheldon Campbell were not home when flames ripped through the house at 9 School St. Sheldon Campbell was hospitalized at Maine Medical Center in Portland with an illness Monday night and remained there Wednesday.

Wing was concerned where the couple will live and how they will be able to care for their remaining animals.

She said a cow and some geese were outside during the fire and some of the family’s cats had been located.

It is believed their birds and three chinchillas were also lost in the fire, she said.

Norma Sheldon often walks the cow around the yard on a leash, Wing said.

“After this, if she can’t keep her animals she will just be lost,” she said.

The Campbells are well known for their love for animals, and family members said they knew Sherwood Campbell went back into the building to save their three dogs.

“He had a heart of gold and loved his animals,” Blanchette said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Blanchettes sifted through debris to salvage family heirlooms and pictures.

Brianna Blanchette, standing near where the front of the house had stood, found a horse figurine and recalled always seeing it on a hutch. She also found several baseball cards and a family picture that her father believed could be saved.

Blanchette and his daughter also used a shovel to pile snow on the smoking pile of rubble to prevent the fire from reigniting.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us to clean this up,” he said.

Anyone wishing to offer their services or make donations to help the family are encouraged to call Wing at 320-3685.

ecox@sunjournal.com

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