AUGUSTA — It was where he kept the flag that had once been draped over his father’s coffin.

It was where she kept the furniture her grandmother had passed down to her. It was where their six children grew up and where their grandchildren continued to return.

The home on Coon Island in Togus Pond that Rob Deschamps owned with his wife, Allison Ames, was destroyed Friday by a fire that investigators say was deliberately set.

“We did not consider it a camp,” Deschamps said Monday. “We considered it a home.”

The pain and shock for Deschamps and Ames have yet to subside. Deschamps said that they had not yet been out to see the remains of the house.

“We have to get beyond that point,” he said.

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with setting the fire and breaking into three other camps on the island and one on shore. All of the camps were damaged during the break-ins, police have said. Most of that damage consisted of broken doors and windows. Investigators have not said why or how the teen burned down Deschamps’ home.

The teen, whose name was withheld because he is a juvenile, has been charged with arson and four counts each of burglary, theft and criminal mischief, said Augusta Police Detective Sgt. Matthew Clark. He said the teen is being held at a state youth detention center.

Deschamps said a camp on the same spot burned down about 30 years ago. The building was on a non-conforming lot, which meant the previous owners had to build something quickly to meet criteria in the city ordinance. The rough structure was all that was there when Ames bought it in 1986.

Deschamps said he and Ames put in thousands of hours building their dream home.

“They threw up three walls and a roof,” Deschamps said. “We’ve worked (hard) since then to turn into the home it was. We did everything ourselves. Our hands were all over it. We created it from the ground up.”

The couple have an efficiency apartment in town that they stay in when winter conditions make it impossible to get to Coon Island, but they have lived on the island year-round, Deschamps said. They particularly enjoyed the solitude and quiet of spring and fall, when it’s too cold for boating and too warm for ice.

“The spring and fall were special,” Deschamps said.

Deschamps and Ames had no insurance on the home. Deschamps said companies that would agree to a policy wanted hefty premiums for the risk of insuring an island home.

“No amount of insurance would replace the things that mean the most to us,” Deschamps said. “The insurance wouldn’t have replaced four walls and a roof.”

In addition to the flag from his dad’s coffin, Deschamps said the couple kept furniture — some of it more than 100 years old — that had been passed down from family. There were the boxes of letters Deschamps grandfather sent to grandmother during the three years he fought in World War II. There were the pictures, mementos of their children, and a lifetime of memories.

“I could go on forever,” Deschamps said.

He and Ames haven’t decided what they will do on the site, but he can’t imaging abandoning it.

“I can only imagine we’ll redo something,” he said. “It won’t be what it was.”

But Deschamps and Ames have already seen beauty start to rise out of the ashes. It has come from the neighbors offering their comfort and the Winthrop Baptist Church that has offered to hold an old-fashioned barn raising on the island when the couple is ready to rebuild.

“We are completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of caring and love and support that is coming to us from every angle from people we know and people we don’t,” Deschamps said. “It’s almost more positive than the tragedy is negative. It’s everywhere we turn. It’s amazing.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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