THE BARRETT HOME at 3 Knox Mountain Road in Center Ossipee was destroyed by a fire of unknown origin on Friday evening, Oct. 5. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
October 11, 2012OSSIPEE — Arriving home to find your street lined with fire trucks and firefighters trying to extinguish the fire consuming your home is one of those things that many of us would put on our top 10 or perhaps top five list of greatest fears. It happened to the Barrett family of Center Ossipee last Friday night, Oct. 5.
The past Tuesday, Jennifer Barrett, still in a fog and trying to come to grips with the tragedy, explained how she was headed home with her daughter from a trip to visit her son when she received a phone call telling her that the family home was burning down. Her husband John had arrived home before her and came upon the emergency already in progress.
The call went out to firefighters just before 8 p.m. reporting a house fire at 3 Knox Mountain Road at the intersection of Ossipee Mountain Road. A 911 caller reported at the time, and several in the neighborhood reported later that they heard explosions early on in the emergency. A fire department officer arrived within four minutes of the initial emergency tone and reported the home was fully engulfed in flames. According to Center Ossipee Fire Chief Michael Brownell, with the assistance of the state fire marshal's office, the cause of the fire remains under investigation and it could take a while for investigators to determine was sparked the massive fire that destroyed the chalet-style home.
The call escalated to a second-alarm response bringing in fire crews from Center Ossipee, West Ossipee, Ossipee Corner, Tuftonboro, Effingham, Freedom, and Tamworth. Police shut down the road and assisted with traffic and in keeping back the many bystanders who arrived curious to know what happening to their neighbors. Just over an hour and half into the call, the fire was declared out with firefighters continuing work to quell any hot spots. There were no injuries reported in the blaze.
By Tuesday morning, Jennifer Barrett seemed no more ready to answer the question, "what do we do now?" than she was the night of the fire. The Red Cross stepped in and gave the Barretts and their 12-year-old daughter gift cards to purchase clothing and other needed immediate items since everything they owned was lost in the blaze. The organization also paid for three nights' lodging for the family at EconoLodge in West Ossipee.
Because the fire happened on the eve of a three-day holiday weekend the Barrett's efforts in trying to figure out what to do next were hampered. They have no immediate family in the area that could assist them monetarily or offer a place to stay while they search for permanent housing, "and we can't afford to pay the rate to stay in a hotel room forever," said Barrett, who works as manager at Dunkin' Donuts in Wolfeboro.
Barrett agreed that one of the hardest parts about coping with this disaster in the first few days is not being sure what to do first, second, or next. She said they have a mortgage so they have insurance but figuring out what it does and doesn't cover, whether they have to pay a mortgage now plus pay rent somewhere, and other legalities is overwhelming at best.
"I kept waiting for someone to show up. I even asked the fire chief. I don't know what to do or how everything is supposed to work. I expected someone would show up that was in charge of helping families through this, who could give us a list of 'this is what you need to do tomorrow morning'. I thought there must be a person but there isn't," said Barrett.
During the interview, Barrett was not sure how to answer "what can the community do to help?" but it became apparent that housing within the Governor Wentworth School District is needed, whether someone could perhaps offer temporary housing in a seasonal residence or an affordable longer term rental while they sort out what becomes of their Knox Mountain lot. Gift cards and other monetary donations would help to cover immediate clothing, household, food, and personal item needs.
Anyone interested in donating to assist the Barrett family can send those donations to Barrett Family, in care of Center Ossipee Fire Department, PO Box 276, Center Ossipee, NH 03814.