December 28, 2013

Man left homeless from China fire says support offered from community, out of state

Gerald Folsom, brother-in-law of the homeowner, continues to recover from smoke inhalation in Lewiston after being rescued from the fire.

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Neil Farrington said that since he lost his three-story home to a fire yesterday, he’s received more than 100 calls asking how he’s doing and offering support.

Farrington, 63, said for now, it’s just about trying to make sure his family’s basic needs are met and his five children are taken care of.

“Its just a matter of survival and getting things done and getting the kids straightened around,” he said.

Farrington came home Friday afternoon after getting a generator repaired and saw his Fire Road 14 house on fire. His brother-in-law with cerebral palsy, Gerald Folsom, was trapped inside in the back of the house. Farrington said he couldn’t break open the sliding door in back near where Folsom was, so he instead broke open a window with a shovel, cutting his hands in the process.

He and China Village volunteer firefighter Joe Labbe lifted his brother through the window and brought him to safety. Lifeflight helicopter took Folsom to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

The house had been without power since Monday, and Farrington thought candles may have been the source of the fire.

He said the Office of the State Fire Marshal is working to finish their report on the accidental fire, and an insurance representative will be at his house on Monday to start the process of getting insurance money for the lost home.

In the meantime, Farrington said the rest of his family is staying at two combining rooms at the Comfort Inn in Waterville while he looks into other housing options. He said of their eight children, five still live at home, so they will need to look for a place big enough to fit the whole family.

Friends of the family have offered places to stay, and he hopes to find somewhere in China so his children can continue to attend the same schools.

“We’ve gotten offers from four or five people in the town of China,” he said. “I was a selectman for China for 10 years so most everyone knows us.”

He said he lived in California for 18 years before coming to Maine, and a friend from the state is a disc-jockey and has been appealing on the Farringtons’ behalf to listeners.

Between their California friends, local friends and the news, he said they have gotten more than 50 calls a day since the fire.

“We’ve reached across the coast ... Today with Facebook you have friends everywhere,” he said.

Farrington said he stayed last night at the Arbor House at the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, which is available free to families traveling long distances to see patients.

Folsom, who was in the house during the fire, is still in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. Farrington said his lungs are charred with soot from smoke inhalation, and he is back on oxygen after having a breathing tube previously removed. Farrington and his wife plan to switch off staying with Folsom and staying in Waterville with the children.

He said the rest of his family went shopping in Portland Saturday to replace the clothes they lost in the fire.

“They were dealing with that today while I was dealing with it here, trying to work through things,” he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252kschroeder@centralmaine.com
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