Many of the firefighters who turned up to battle the blaze consuming the LaPlante barn and house at 17 Adell Road in Readfield on Jan. 23 recognized the property immediately.

They had been there five months earlier for a parade of fire trucks that was part of a birthday celebration the LaPlantes hosted for a 5-year-old Augusta boy who had a brain tumor.

“He’s never had a birthday party, said Joyce LaPlante, who added that a parent did not want the boy’s name made public. “It ended up being gigantic. It was like a carnival, there were 10 fire trucks, a bounce house, a pony.”

She had decorated the inside of the barn like a “princess palace,” and the hundred or so people attending raised $2,500 to buy the child a special swing set he could use. The boy is unable to walk.

One of those involved in the unofficial “Make-A-Wish” party and the firefighting was Readfield Fire Chief Lee Mank.

“You hate to see anybody’s house burn,” Mank said. “Knowing how they help other people made it that much harder.”

The community, friends and family have pitched in to help Joyce LaPlante, 55, and Terry LaPlante, 54, who have been living in an Augusta hotel with their two dogs, a German shepherd named Stella and a Pomeranian named Willow.

“We’re very grateful to everybody,” Joyce LaPlante said. “We wouldn’t be doing as well as we are if it wasn’t for all the wonderful people in our lives. They’re the ones keeping us going and making it easier for us.”


The LaPlantes lost almost everything in the blaze.

They escaped with their lives, their animals, Joyce’s purse, Terry’s wallet, and a 100-year-old portrait of Joyce’s grandmother that Joyce snagged from the dining room wall as she ran out.

Joyce LaPlante, a stylist at Heads Up Hair & Sun in Farmingdale, recounted the events that preceded the blaze.

“It was 10:30 at night, and I smelled something really funny.” She got up to check the wood stove which sometimes got a back draft, but it was fine. Then Terry, too, remarked on “an awful smell,” and he again checked the wood stove.

The smoke alarm sounded next.

“He ran downstairs, and he looked through the dining window, and he could see barn was ablaze,” she said. “It was an inferno.”

The flames blew into the attached house through the doggie door in the kitchen door, and the couple fled into the rainy night.

When firefighters arrived, the barn was aflame, and a metal roof prevented firefighters from being able to get directly at all the flames.

“We had to have an excavator come in and chew up where the barn was so we could put the fire out,” said Mank. “The barn was totally gone, and the house was still standing, but it was uninhabitable,”

Fire charred everything in the interior of the house.

Mank said the fire appeared to start in the barn and might have been electrical.

Sgt. Joel Davis of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, which investigated the blaze, said there was so much damage that the cause was undetermined but not considered suspicious.

“We’re doing OK,” Joyce LaPlante said last week. She said she feels lucky to have escaped so easily because several close friends are dealing with the deaths of loved ones, and she is trying to help them. “I’m just taking it all in,” she said.

On her Facebook page, she posted, “We all made it out alive, and that’s what counts. PEOPLE cannot be replaced.”

The LaPlantes are looking for a house to rent, preferably in Manchester, Readfield or Winthrop. “We want to rebuild and want to be close while we’re doing the project,” she said.

They had bought the four-acre property in Readfield with its 1855 house shortly after their marriage 31/2 years ago. Both are from the central Maine area.

While the home was insured, Joyce LaPlante said she learned it could be some time before the actual rebuilding can begin.

She said her husband, who works at On Target Utility Services in Gardiner, is dealing with all the insurance paperwork.

Emily Ann Vachon, girlfriend of Joyce’s son Shain Szady, started a gofundme page the day after the fire to raise money to help the LaPlantes. As of Friday, it had collected $4,322 in donations.

Donna Johnson, a receptionist at Access Worldwide in Augusta, and a family friend of the LaPlantes conducted a fundraiser at her workplace that brought in $600 in 10 days.

“Donna’s determination to help her friends and members of our community in need turned out to be a success from a small company here in Central Maine,” said an email from the firm. “We couldn’t be prouder to have someone like Donna, who has such compassion for others, represent AWWC in a positive community effort. Our employees grabbed a hold of this fundraiser and we hope it will help the LaPlante’s efforts!”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadam