Westport Island residents Stanley Lane and Dr. Norma Dreyfus had a very emotional ride home from an overnight trip on Feb. 25.
Lane, a first responder and a member of the Westport Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors, received a call on his cellphone at 2:19 p.m. that there was a fire on Westport Island. The next call reported the fire was on North End Road, then the husband and wife heard Fire Chief Robert Mooney report it was the first house on the right, and it was fully engulfed in flames.
The first house on the right was their home and had been since 1999 when they moved to Westport Island. They were just south of Portsmouth, N.H. when they got the call.
Lane and Dreyfus have a German shepherd, Gracie, who was at a kennel. The first call they made was to the Avant-Garde Kennel in Windham to say they would not be picking up Gracie because their home was on fire.
At 2.41 p.m. they received a text message from Sandy Mooney, which read, “We’re here at your property bearing witness. The fire department is here now but it’s gone. How can we say what we feel? More later.”
During an interview this past week, Lane and Dreyfus said they could not believe their home was gone.
“We just could not comprehend our home was gone,” Dreyfus said.
“You never believe it can happen to you until it does,” Lane said.
When they arrived at their home, the reality of their loss sunk in.
Finding themselves without a place to live was a devastating experience, something they said they would never want anyone to experience. They have not gone back to their property since the fire. “I do not want to go back to the property,” Lane said. “We lost everything.”
When they called their children to tell them the news, their grandchildren asked if the swing and tree house they had built over the years was still there. Both were intact.
Their 15-year-old grandson said, ‘Grandpa, do a few repairs on the tree house and you can live in that until you get another home.’
Lane and Dreyfus got a chuckle from his comments.
The first night after the fire they stayed at the Hampton Inn in Bath. The next day they had several offers of places to stay from their friends. Steve Baseman, of Southport, offered his home, as did Donald Giulianti, of Westport Island, who is in Florida until June.
The couple accepted Giulianti’s offer because his home is on the island, and the offer gives them time to decide what to do.
The couple has not decided whether to rebuild on the property. If and when they decide to rebuild, they plan to build a smaller home, however, right now they are focusing on finding a place to live beginning in June, and buying clothes to wear.
“Bob Cooney gave me a jacket to wear the night of the fire,” Lane said. “We have been doing a lot of shopping at Renys.”
“The outpouring of support has been amazing,” Dreyfus said. “It is unbelievable the amount of support we have received, and continue to receive, from food, personal items, and much more, keeping in mind all we had was what we took with us for an overnight stay.”
Lane thanked the firefighters and the volunteers who supplied the firefighters with coffee, pizza, and sandwiches.
“We will never be able thank them enough,” he said. “We are very lucky to live in a town like Westport Island with the broad community support.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office ruled the cause of the fire undetermined and not suspicious, according to Lane.