PARIS – A barefoot Nichols Street woman dragged her disabled husband out of a burning house and into subzero temperatures early Tuesday morning when fire raced through their two-story log home.

About 100 firefighters from seven towns braved the frigid temperatures and wild winds to battle the fire, which destroyed the home, killed three cats and sent the homeowners to the hospital. A Rottweiler puppy named Falco somehow escaped the flames in all the chaos.

Patricia Morris, 44, of 84 Nichols St., said her husband, William, woke up around 4:30 a.m. to the smell of smoke, and they both tried to make it to the door to escape. William, a 49-year-old disabled man who uses a wheelchair and crutches to get around because of a back injury, fell as he tried to make it out of the house.

“He had fallen and was trying to get up. I dragged him out to the porch and got him on his feet and then dragged him to the car,” said his wife in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon from a local hotel where they are now staying.

According to Morris, her husband woke up to the smell of smoke and both tried to get to the door wearing only their nightclothes and no shoes. Morris said she was able to get them both inside their car but without keys, they huddled in the freezing temperatures waiting for help. Within moments the house had erupted into flames, she said.

“We were just lucky,” Morris said.

Paris police officer Raymond Parr, one of the first at the scene, got the couple out of their car into a warm cruiser and drove them directly to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

Fire Chief Brad Frost said, “The weather played a big part” in the fight to douse the fire. The house is situated about 600 or 700 feet back from the road on a slight hill and was open to the high winds of early Tuesday morning.

“We couldn’t get inside to attack it. The wind kept changing directions on us,” Frost said.

The home’s floor plan was open with cathedral ceilings and a walkway around the second floor that led to rooms and looked down on the living room area and first floor bedroom where the Morrises slept. The home, which was constructed about 15 years ago, featured knotty pine wood that was saturated in urethane, further fueling the fire, Frost said.

The 100 or so volunteer firefighters came from Paris, Norway, Oxford, Otisfield, Hebron, West Paris and Woodstock. Crews from Waterford covered the Norway fire station, Poland covered the Oxford station and Greenwood crews covered the Woodstock station.

Although firefighters initially used propane heaters in a garage on the Morris property to keep warm, that effort became too great so firefighters were shuttled back to the fire station where the Salvation Army had set up a canteen to provide warm beverages and food.

“We kept shuttling them so they wouldn’t get frostbite,” said Frost of the need to bring firefighters back to the station on Western Avenue, just over the hill from the Nichols Street home.

Frost said ice was not a serious issue in the firefighting efforts and to his knowledge no one slipped or was injured on the ice.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Deputy Chief Charles Larson said late Tuesday afternoon. Although an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s office arrived at the scene shortly after 1 p.m., his work was stopped short when hot spots flared up requiring firefighters to return to the site.

Larson said the fire marshal will return later this week after a cherry picker is brought in to take the back part of the house, where the heaviest damage was, down bit by bit.

Meanwhile, Morris, who spent Tuesday speaking with her insurance company, having keys made for her car, getting prescriptions that were lost refilled and taking care of other necessities, said they will have to take each day as it comes.

“It’s just been a wild day. We’ve lost everything,” she said of the home they have been renovating for the past eight years. “We’d like to rebuild. We’ll deal with it as it comes. Everyone has been great.”


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