Community rallying behind Ossipee fire victims

A PILE OF RUBBLE is all that remains following the fire that destroyed the home of Fran and Karen Thurber of Ossipee on Dec. 15. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
December 19, 2013
OSSIPEE — After a day spent Christmas shopping followed by an in-home movie night with their grandchildren as a snowy blizzard began outside, little did Fran and Karen Thurber of Ossipee know that as they were sleeping their life would take a horrific turn.

Just before 1 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15, as her husband and grandchildren Brooke, 11, and Trevor, 7, lay sleeping, Karen was woken by a sound and once awake realized their home atop Ossipee Mountain Road was filling with smoke and woke Fran.

As Karen and Brooke made their way out of the house, reportedly Fran fought through the black smoke and darkness to find a sleeping Trevor and carry him out to safety. Fran would then make several trips back into the home, including a trip to find a phone to call 911.

As Brooke, wearing only her pajamas, held her shoeless, shirtless brother on her back so his feet wouldn't be in the snow, she also helped Karen see the phone to call 911 since Karen's eyeglasses were inside the burning home. Meanwhile Fran tried to move one of their cars away from the house but as he was doing so the heat from the fire became too intense and he had to abandon that effort.

Despite the intensifying snowstorm that would eventually drop a foot of snow on the area overnight, an Ossipee Police officer as well as the town's highway crew were on scene within minutes. The police officer reported a "full involved" building fire and the highway crew moved swiftly to clear snow for incoming firefighters who arrived within 24 minutes of the emergency call. Fire crews battled through the night against the blinding snow and frigid temperatures and would remain at the scene, according to dispatch reports, for seven hours.

Brooke and Trevor's father, Neil Eldridge, was one of the highway crew members who helped clear the way and drive his children home to Center Ossipee where they could be safe and warm with their mother.

Fran inhaled a lot of smoke and singed his eyebrows, so he was taken by ambulance to Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro for treatment and observation. Brooke and Trevor were also taken to the hospital by their mother just to be sure they hadn't been injured in the fire.

Because of the intensity of the fire and the treacherous weather conditions, the fire call was increased to a second alarm. This brought in all Ossipee fire departments as well as those from Effingham, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro, Tamworth, and Freedom. Center Ossipee Fire Department would respond back to the scene at least five times to extinguish "hot spots" that flared up in the pile of rubble that was once a single-story home, basement, and two vehicles.

By daybreak, the news of the fire had spread throughout the area that these two beloved members of the community had lost their home and all of their possessions. Karen works at Huggins Hospital and once owned the thrift shop located in the Hitching Post building that was destroyed by fire a few years ago. There were many times throughout the years when tragedy struck local families, Karen would open up her thrift shop to the family and just let them take whatever they needed. Fran is a custodian at Effingham Elementary School and volunteers with both the Schools Out! Program as the drill team coordinator and with Ossipee Recreation youth basketball coach.

The social media website Facebook was instantly swamped with comments and offers of help. A special page "Helping Our Friends" was set up on Facebook for people to coordinate donations and offer their support. The common theme among those who know the Thurbers and discuss how to help them is, "They would do anything for anyone and have never asked for anything in return."

And apparently, they don't have to ask for anything, the community is rallying to help them get back on their feet. Piles of donated clothing and other items have been collected and delivered. A fundraising website has been set up at so those who wish can make donations online. As of press time $605 had been raised on that site.

Area businesses have been generously donating raffle prizes that will be raffled off at a fundraising event this Friday, Dec. 20, starting at 7 p.m. at Sunny Villa. Owner of that restaurant, Tim Carnes, graciously offered to allow community volunteers to partner with Sunny Villa at the Ugly Sweater Party already planned for that evening. The community is invited to the event for fundraising and fun that includes the raffles, 50/50 raffle, DJ, dancing, giveaways, and a cash prize for ugliest sweater.

For now, the Thurbers are with their daughter in Center Ossipee. Those wishing to send donations or well-wishes to them can do so by mail to Fran and Karen Thurber, care of Jennifer Eldridge, 71 Thurley Road, Center Ossipee, NH 03814.

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