Champlain family picking up pieces after devastating fire

CHAMPLAIN Five days after the fire that claimed the Ridge Road home of Robert and Vicki Rabideau, the smell of smoke still lingered, thick enough to cling to the couples clothing as they searched for items to salvage. Mrs. Rabideau displayed a sheaf of singed documents diplomas, certificates, college papers and sighed. I think this is the last day well be out here, she said, explaining they hadnt been able to salvage much other than a few items of clothes after the Dec. 23 fire. A look inside the blackened kitchen confirmed that to be the case. Portions of the upstairs ceiling littered the charred kitchen table and one corner of the room had fallen away into the basement below. The only flash of color was from a partially-burned lilac bench, its brightness incongruous amidst the destruction. The 1897 house had recently been almost completely remodeled. The couple had only just installed new laminate floors, cabinets, and appliances and was preparing to begin work on the second floor. It was really nice. You cant even tell to look at it now, said Mrs. Rabideau. At the time the fire broke out, the couple was at the West Chazy home of Mrs. Rabideaus parents, Lawrence and Shirley Brothers. Neighbors reported the fire shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday evening. As the emergency call went out, Mrs. Rabideaus brother, Todd Brothers, heard it over his scanner and notified the Rabideaus. When the Rabideaus arrived back at their home, firefighters were already battling the flames. Thats when Mrs. Rabideau realized her wedding bands were still in the upstairs bedroom where she had placed them while finishing up some Christmas baking earlier in the day. We were just married in September, she recounted. My husband managed to let the firefighters know where they were and they found them. We owe all the firefighters a big thank you. Firefighters were also able to save several safes, some Christmas presents, and the family dogs. According to Champlain Fire Chief Chris Trombley, efforts at extinguishing the fire were hampered by high winds and the brick and wood construction of the structure. The fire, which is believed to have been caused by a crack in the chimney, quickly spread from the basement to the breezeway to the main house, and finally up into the attic, where access was limited. In some places we had to go through two to three feet [to gain access to the attic], Chief Trombley explained. Approximately 60 firefighters from Rouses Point, Mooers, Chazy, Rescue Hose 5 and Hemmingford, Quebec, responded to assist the Champlain department in battling the fire. We had good manpower; everyone worked very hard, said Chief Trombley. In the days following the fire, friends and family have been a big help to the Rabideaus. Neighbors Todd and Lisa Trombley ran power out to the couples barn and have helped care for their horses. Friends Sharon and Randy LaValley of Mooers helped go through their things and even gave them some clothes. Theyve been wonderful, said Mrs. Rabideau. Despite losing virtually all their possessions, Mrs. Rabideau and her husband were able to find a moment of humor. My husband called to have the power shut off and he couldnt get the girl to understand that the house was gone, Mrs. Rabideau laughed. She kept offering to send an inspector out to reconnect the power. The home is insured, but the couple is unsure whether they will rebuild. They are currently staying with family in West Chazy. Weve had to sit back and look at the situation, said Mrs. Rabideau. Nobody was hurt is the main thing. Things can all be replaced.

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