By BEN ROWE Press-Republican
---- — MOOERS — Hidden in a fireplace compartment behind a cast-iron door, family photos were the only possessions that survived the fire that gutted the home of Robert and Lachana Thompson on Tuesday.
“My uncle was the one that built the fireplace, and I gave him a big hug and said, ‘Thank you very much for building that because if it wasn’t for that, we would have nothing at all,’” Mrs. Thompson said.
The home at 474 North Star Road caught fire Tuesday morning, and Mooers Volunteer Fire Department officials declared it a total loss.
Fire Chief Raymond Phair said the cause was still under investigation as of Wednesday evening; Tuesday, he had said the fire wasn’t considered suspicious.
HEARD PAGER CALL
The couple’s three children were at school when the blaze ignited.
Mr. Thompson was at work — he’s a custodian for Northeastern Clinton Central School District — and overheard an emergency radio call for co-worker and volunteer firefighter Mike Menard.
The address, Mrs. Thompson said, “didn’t register to my husband at first.”
She was on her way to Champlain to meet her mother, Marilyn LaBelle, for coffee when her husband called her about the fire.
LaBelle said her daughter drove up to their meeting place in a panic.
“She pulled up and said, ‘Mom, I can’t stay. My house is on fire,’” she said.
The pair hurried to Mooers and saw firefighters battling flames and the house filled with what LaBelle remembers as an “unbelievable amount of smoke.”
GRATEFUL FOR AID
The North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross was the first to provide assistance to the Thompsons in the hours after the fire.
LaBelle, who lives next door to her daughter and family, said friends and relatives have offered support, while NCCS is organizing fundraisers.
“Usually, it’s my husband and I that are helping other people out, and ... now it’s them helping us,” a grateful Thompson said, explaining that they have donated clothing and other goods to families in crisis.
The Thompsons have homeowner’s insurance and are waiting to hear from the company before making further plans.
Until then, they are staying with Mrs. Thompson’s parents.
Those wishing to assist the Thompson family may mail checks to them at 474 North Star Road, Mooers, NY 12958