PERU — While a family of six was hiking Sunday morning, their 817 Auburn Road home was destroyed by fire.

Peru Fire Chief William E. Hussey said Monday that Jesse and Ashley Merrill and their four kids were displaced by the fire. The family was being assisted by disaster responders from the American Red Cross of Northern New England.

“They lost everything, but the home was fully insured,” Hussey said. “We have an idea that it started in the kitchen area, but we didn’t know the actual cause.”

The Office of Maine State Fire Marshal was contacted and “is still conducting the investigation, but they felt it was accidental. There was no intent,” said Hussey.

At the time of the fire, he said a dog and two cats were at the residence. “One cat we haven’t found as yet, but don’t know if it perished because it may be hiding,” he said.

The chief said the call came in at 10:52 a.m. Sunday. The building, estimated to be a 24-foot-by-48-foot raised ranch, had smoke and fire shooting out the windows by the time firefighters arrived on scene.


A couple neighbors assisted early on, along with passing motorists Dale Roberts and Norman St. Pierre.

“A lot of people stopped. It was the busiest time of day of traffic (on Route 108). We had one lane open to allow traffic,” said Hussey.

Up to 35 firefighters from Peru, Dixfield, Mexico, Canton and Rumford responded. There were no injuries. “It was warm, and we drank a lot of water,” he said.

“We knocked it down real quick, made entrance and put everything out, but while it didn’t burn through the roof, it was ready to,” Hussey said. “But everybody worked well, and again, another example of good mutual aid in the valley.”

He said they cleared the scene a little after 2 p.m.

A GoFundME page called “Merrill Family Fire Recovery Fund” is being organized by Ashley’s sister, Amanda Bowie. They are raising funds to help purchase items such as clothing, shoes, furniture, linens and kitchenware.

Donations also are accepted at Aubuchon Hardware on Falmouth Street in Rumford, through store manager, Kevin Jamison, 207-364-4813.

Housewares are all needed the site says. Dish cloths, towels, washcloths, silverware, dishes, pots and pans — anything needed to run a home, including bedding for twin beds, full and queen/king sheets, blankets and pillows.

They are also a family of avid readers.

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