January 15, 2013

Fast-spreading fire stymies Madison woman's effort to save her home Monday

Jenny Morales saves poodle from fire caused by unattended cooking; second poodle, cat perish

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

MADISON -- A mother of five risked her life Monday to try to save her home, but she was driven outdoors quickly by flames and shattering glass.

click image to enlarge

Mary MacMaster, an investigator with the State Fire Marshal's Office, exits the burned home of Al and Jenny Morales in Madison on Tuesday. Fire destroyed the home Monday evening.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Jenny Morales and her 9-year-old daughter arrived at their Main Street home at 5:30 p.m. to find the kitchen fully engulfed in flames, with three pets inside. The fire eventually destroyed the home and killed two of the animals.

When Morales, 37, arrived, she thought the home could be saved, so she ran inside for a fire extinguisher.

"I wasn't thinking, so I ran in," Morales said. "At first, I didn't think it was that bad. Obviously, it was worse than that."

Her daughter Kiara stood on the lawn screaming for her mother to come out while Jenny Morales looked for the fire extinguisher. When Jenny Morales heard windows popping and shattering in her kitchen, she knew it was time to leave, she said. She managed to save her poodle, Kissy.

Another poodle, Sissy, and her cat, Kit-Kat, died in the fire.

Lost, too, were the family's belongings and their home of 10 years.

Sgt. Ken Grimes of the State Fire Marshal's Office said the fire was accidental. It started on a stovetop because cooking was unattended while the occupants left the house briefly, he said.

Morales stood alone Tuesday morning behind yellow caution tape near the home's burned-out husk. She said the home was insured, but the contents were not.

The community has rallied to find clothing for the family, but they need furniture and a place to live.

"The community has been great. I am very, very thankful, but we need everything. We have nothing left. Everything has been smoke-damaged or water-damaged or fire-damaged," she said. "It's hard, you know? We have nothing.

"This was just so sudden. You don't ever prepare yourself for something like this."

The Red Cross booked a hotel room for the family on Monday and Tuesday nights, but the future is uncertain.

There are seven members in Morales' family -- her husband, Al; sons Nathan, 16, and Nicholas, 13; and daughters Alianna, 11, and Kiara. A fifth child is grown and lives elsewhere. The children are active in Madison school sports and want to stay in town, Jenny Morales said. They need a three-bedroom apartment as soon as possible.

"I haven't had to look for an apartment in so long, I don't remember what that's like," she said.

Morales said she works two jobs -- as medical assistant at Kennebec Behavioral Health and a registrar at Inland Hospital. Her husband is a long-distance truck driver and was out of town at the time of the blaze, she said.

Morales said the Madison elementary, junior high and high schools are accepting donations on the family's behalf. Donations can also be made to Health First Credit Union on Quarry Road in Waterville.

About 20 firefighters from Madison and Anson fire departments went to the fire scene. Fire Chief Roger Lightbody said firefighters had the fire under control in about 10 minutes and left the house around 8:30 p.m.

Morales said she feels lucky to have made it out of the home unscathed.

"When I got outside, I noticed that my jacket had melted," she said.

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

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