NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. - Neighbors rallied around the family of Kelly and Andy Gray today after fire broke out in the basement of their two-story home at 81 Border St. and quickly spread to the first floor.
The Gray's were too distraught to talk as fire lit up their downstairs windows and smoke hovered in the air around the neighborhood. According to a neighbor and friend, the Gray's have five children, the oldest son in his late teens, the other four children elementary and middle school age.
Fire Chief Gary Nestor said that, as a precaution, the four youngest children were taken to the hospital. In addition, a school counselor, through a program started by Schools Superintendent Susan Gorky, responded to help the children.
One cat died in the fire, but several other pets were rescued, Nestor said.
Nestor said the fire started in the basement near the furnace, and spread to the first and probably second floors of the wood-frame structure. "It's an older home,'' he said, "and in older houses the fire goes everywhere.''
''There was extensive fire damage at 81 Border St., Nestor said. There was no fire damage at 83 Border, but a lot of smoke and water damage. He estimates damage to be $50,000 for contents and $75,000 for structure.
The homeowners, believed to be relatives of the Gary's and living at 83 Border, were insured. The Gray's were not insured, Nestor said.
Neighbors Christina Smith and Brenda Dickerman, of 24 and 26 C Street, said the family lost everything in the fire. They plan to open an account at Unibank in Shaw's Plaza on Rte. 122 in the morning for donations to help the family. Smith has also set up a Gray Family Fund page on Facebook.
The women are also collecting donations of food, clothing and furniture. They said larger donations can be stored in their basements until the Gray's are able to use it.
Josh Megarry of A Street, watching firefighters battle the blaze from the corner or A Street, said he was particularly concerned about the Gray's children, who at the time were huddled in a police cruiser.
"I want to do something to help,'' he said, because he remembers how traumatic such events can have on a child. He said he was 7 when his mother was murdered in Leicester. Her murderer is serving life without parole, Megarry said, but the trauma of that day will always be with him.
Nestor said the Red Cross responded and will be helping the those displaced by the fire. Fire crews from Northbridge, Douglas, and Uxbridge were on scene, and Grafton and Upton covered the stations, Nestor said. The Graton canteen truck also responded, providing coffee, water and etc. to the firefighters.
Nestor said all companies returned to service at 9 p.m.