April 29, 2013

Benton man, 82, loses home to fire

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BENTON — Clyde Berry, 82, lost his Benton Avenue home and everything he owned in a fire early Monday, and he has no insurance.

click image to enlarge

Home owner Clyde Berry, left, speaks with state Fire Marshal's Office investigator Ken MacMaster outside the ruins of Berry's home in Benton that was destroyed by fire early Monday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

Sharon Stowe, left, and Barbara Berry, both related to homeowner Clyde Berry, salvage family photographs from the remains of Clyde Berry's home that was destroyed by fire early Monday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Kenneth MacMaster, an investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said the fire is being listed as accidental.

“The fire appears to have started under the mobile home — possibly an electrical malfunction,” he said.

Berry, a widower who worked 27 years for the town of Fairfield plowing snow, driving a bulldozer and fixing roads, sat on the bumper of a pickup truck in his driveway later Monday, surveying the damage and recalling the fire.

“I was sitting in the living room watching TV and I got up and went to the bathroom on the back end of the house,” he said. “I was in the bathroom a couple of minutes and I came out and the outside porch was all in flames, coming right from the ground, right up to the roof. I don’t even remember how I got out.”

He said he lost his balance and fell down the steps of the double-wide mobile home as he was trying to get out. He has no cellphone, so he drove to the Fire Department in nearby Fairfield to report the fire, he said. It was reported at 1:26 a.m.

MacMaster and Fairfield Fire Chief Duane Bickford perused the rubble Monday morning, looking for the fire’s cause.

Bickford said about 30 firefighters from Fairfield, Waterville, Winslow, Albion and Clinton battled the blaze and were at the scene until 4:20 a.m.

“It was fully involved when we got here,” Bickford said. “It was a heavy fire load, a lot of digging; and of course, you’ve got the trees. It’s surrounded by trees.”

Trees around the rubble were scorched black.

Berry lost two dogs in the fire and a cat is unaccounted for, according to his daughter-in-law, Barbara Berry, 29.

Buster, one of Clyde Berry’s dogs, was a beagle; the other, Libby, was a black Labrador retriever mix, she said.

“The little black-and-white kitty he called ‘Baby,’” Barbara Berry said. “Baby used to crawl up under his blanket and cuddle with him.”

Barbara Berry and her husband, Derrick, who is Clyde’s only child and turns 29 today — sifted through scorched photographs firefighters had managed to salvage during the fire. The couple’s son, Dominick, 2, played with old toys and equipment in the driveway.

Derrick Berry said his mother, Gail, Clyde’s wife, died seven years ago of pancreatic cancer.

Clyde and Gail had 10 children and he, Derrick, was the only one to survive, he said.

“My Mom lost the babies either during birth or shortly after birth,” he said. “I was just under a pound when I was born. I was in a Portland hospital two months.”

He and Barbara said they hope someone has a camper trailer that Clyde could put on his property to rent until he can figure out what to do.

“He lost his pension check in the fire,” Barbara said. “He has no money at all. We’re going to go to the Town Office today — he worked for the town and gets his pension check from them — to see if they can help him.”

Derrick Berry said a man stopped Monday and offered to remove the rubble from the property.

Another man donated money.

“He goes, ‘Sorry for your loss,’ and handed my dad fifty bucks,” he said.

Clyde Berry said he has lived at 1594 Benton Ave. about 60 years, first in a duplex that was torn down and then in the double-wide trailer, which he put there in the late 1970s.

The Red Cross has put him up at the Fireside Inn in Waterville for three nights, he said.

MacMaster said he could not verify whether smoke alarms were being used in the home at the time of the fire.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

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