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Deshaies family rises from the ashes to look toward a better future

Gathering before the Christmas tree donated by Home Depot are Bobby Deshaies, his brother-in-law Dan Lisee, Jr, and sister Shauna, their 10-month-old daughter Madison, mom Launa Deschaies with her four-month-old grandson Mason, and his 3-year-old niece Emily and family pet Dawson in the foreground. Missing from the photo, among others in the family, are daughters Felicia (13) and Nicole (15) who were at school. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
January 05, 2011
TILTON — The emotions are still raw but Launa Deshaies and her family are optimistic after a devastating fire destroyed their uninsured mobile home at Windy Hill Trailer Park, leaving her and three of her eight children homeless 11 days before Christmas.

Up until last weekend they were living in the Holiday Inn, where Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier and other volunteers from the Tilton-Northfield-Sanbornton Christmas Fund found them and began a "Home Makeover" style endeavor to get the family back on its feet.

Launa Deshaies has nothing but praise for her 27-year-old son Bobby for saving his sister and their beloved pets when the home erupted into flames on Dec. 14 of this year, saving what "matters most."

"He got my daughter and pets out of the house. He's a hero in my eyes," said Deshaies.

Bobby Deshaies said he was asleep on the couch that night while his mother, grandmother and some of the grandchildren went to for a ride to Enfield. His youngest sister Felicia, 13, decided to help out by doing some more unpacking in her mother's room. As she slid a box across the floor, she unknowingly hit a valve to a propane heater, removed prior to the Deshaies purchasing the home. Not knowing what it was, she called for her older brother to come investigate.

"I didn't really grasp what was going on at first because I had been sound asleep. It sounded like water and since there were no lights in that room yet, I flicked a lighter to see what was going on," Bobby Deshaies said.

That small burst of flame quickly triggered a ball of fire, and Bobby Deshaies said he could see it envelope the room around him.

"I closed my eyes when the flames went by and the door slammed shut from the impact. Luckily it closed on Felicia, otherwise it would have been right in her face," he said.

Luckily he was able to locate the door to escape with only minor burns on his hands. He burst from the room and found his sister was frozen in fear on the other side of the door. Grabbing both her and one of their cats, he pushed her out the back door ahead of the flames, yelling "Move, move, move" as they went. In retrospect he said it was strange that while the bedroom was full of fire, there were no flames on himself or the door.

He returned to the house three times to grab animals and open doors so those he couldn't locate could escape. The most difficult was their St. Bernard, Dawson, who was too frightened to leave the room he was in.

"By then flames were in the kitchen, and I had to put him in a headlock and grab him around the middle to drag him off the back porch," Bobby Deshaies said.

He got the dog outside at last, his whiskers a bit singed.

Felicia Deshaies in the meantime had run to the neighbors in her stocking feet to call for help. Bobby Deshaies secured the dog, ran to shut off the outside valve to the propane tank, then he too dialed 911.

"Once I got everyone out so many things ran through my mind, the possibilities, the situations that could occur. They (the fire department) couldn't put the fire out if the tank was still on and I was concerned about them and my neighbors, too," said Bobby Deshaies.

Firefighters from Tilton-Northfield Fire Department arrived quickly on the scene, followed by Launa Deshaies, who was coincidently returning home from her drive with the grandchildren. Frantic when she saw the flames leaping from her house, she said the firefighters quickly reassured her children and pets were okay.

"There was an angel looking over us and those kids that night," she said.

The only loss from the fire was a giant cichlid fish, renamed "Grampy" by her kids. He had actually belonged to Launa Deshaies's father who ironically passed away on the same day, Dec. 14, three years earlier. "Grampy" was known to respond to the family when they talked to or fed him.

"He was totally amazing, but I guess my dad missed him more and wanted him back," Launa Deshaies said with tears in her eyes.

To add to Launa Deshaies' worries however, Felicia Deshaies has Best Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy, gradually robbing her of her vision. Felicia Deshaies has had no concern for herself though and recently composed a letter to the TV show Extreme Home Makeover, asking the ABC network to help her mother. Mom has held onto the application for now though, saying it means more to know her daughter loves her that much.

"I'm so impressed by her caring. Both of my girls. Nicole (her 15-year-old) didn't care about her things either and was just so happy to know our pets were okay, and that's what means the most to me. We're all here," Launa Deshaies said.

Since that fateful night the community has rallied in support of the family, supplying them with food, furniture and clothing. Home Depot even donated a Christmas tree full of ornaments to brighten their holiday. Luana Deshaies said she's been overwhelmed by the support she's received.

"It's like there was a slab of concrete in my life and beautiful flowers just came up and bloomed through it all. I am so grateful to everyone," she said.

She has a stack of thank you cards on her new kitchen table to mail but said she could never say "thank you" enough and is in fact, still searching for names of some who helped.

Looking to the future Luana Deshaies said she would like to clean the site up, pour a new concrete pad and hopefully find another trailer to put where her former home once stood.

"Right now though I have received the gift of love from this community, and I'm no longer afraid of the future," she said.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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