Brandon rallies around family made homeless by fire

BRANDON — One week after a fire destroyed all they own, the Mahoney family of Brandon is staying upbeat, grateful to their community, and grateful for their lives.
“It’s humbling,” Mike Mahoney said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s been hard, but we just want to thank the community and the outlying area. Everyone’s just been wonderful.”
The call came in at 6:15 a.m. last Tuesday that the two-story yellow house on Rossiter Street in Brandon was on fire. It took firefighters from Brandon and Pittsford almost four hours to get the stubborn blaze totally out. Firefighters had a difficult time venting the old slate roof, which trapped the flames in the attic and kept the fire burning inside the house.
In the end, Mike Mahoney’s wife Lisa, his daughter Ashley, and his son’s girlfriend Angel all escaped the fire thanks to working smoke alarms that woke them all up. Mahoney, 47, his son Michael and his son-in-law Jeff Heath were all out of the house at the time of the fire. Two of the family’s dogs and a cat were not so lucky and perished in the blaze. There are still a dog and two cats unaccounted for.
An investigation revealed that one of the cats likely tipped over a full-spectrum lamp in a first-floor side room; the lamp fell onto a couch, which caught fire.
Ashley, 23, and her husband, Jeff, were just married in June, and all of the couple’s wedding gifts were destroyed in the fire, along with Ashley’s wedding dress.
“She watched her dress burn through the window,” Mahoney said.
The Mahoney family is well-known in the Brandon-Forest Dale area. Mike was born and raised in Brandon and graduated from Otter Valley Union High School in 1984. He is a full-time school bus driver for the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union and manages the bar at American Legion Post 55. He was also an EMT with Brandon Rescue for 17 years. Lisa Mahoney works at the Mac’s Market on Route 7 in Brandon. Ashley works at Dave’s Forest Dale Grocery.
So it wasn’t surprising that within 24 hours of the fire, donation jars started to appear on convenience store counters all over town. Then, Legion Commander Aaron Tucker brought two ads to theBrandon Reporter. One was to announce a Firemen’s Dance on Sept. 14 at the Legion, with all proceeds going to the Mahoney family. He also announced that a bank account for donations has been set up with Lake Sunapee Bank in Brandon.
Then, Deb Miner announced a spaghetti supper at the Legion on Sept. 20, with all proceeds to benefit the Mahoneys.
In the meantime, there are collection jars at Jiffy Mart, Mac’s, Green Mountain Garage, and Dave’s Store.
Owner Dave Carroll at Dave’s said he’d collected roughly $400 for the family with his countertop collection jar as of Monday.
“We’ve been emptying it regularly,” he said. “Now, we just have to find a way to get the money to (the Mahoneys).”
J.C. Penney department store has donated clothing to the family.
The entire Mahoney clan was fortunate enough to live right up the street from Lisa’s parents, Janice and Larry Stevens, who gave them a place to stay.
“They have a big house with an upstairs that wasn’t being used,” Mike said. “It may be temporary, it may be permanent. We have to see what the insurance company says.”
Mahoney said if they can, they hope to tear down the burned out house and take advantage of an additional acre of land they own behind it to put up a modular home with a front yard.
“We want to tear down the old house as soon as we can,” he said. “Just so we don’t have to look at it every time we drive by.”
He also said it’s not safe to have the burned-out building in a neighborhood with so many kids, as the Brandon Boys & Girls Club is just down the street.
Mahoney said he was up talking about the possibilities at 4:30 a.m. the previous morning. When asked why he was up at that hour, he replied, “Well, I can’t sleep very well these days.”
He said one of the hardest things has been trying to itemize all of the family’s belongings for insurance purposes. The Mahoneys had lived at 6 Rossiter St. for 19 years.
“There were years and years of stuff in the attic,” he said. “Who knows what was up there and it’s gone. It’s just really hard to account for everything.”
There are still three furry family members unaccounted for, and Mahoney said sightings have been reported:
•  An all-black Lab/border collie mixed-breed dog named “Chloe,” medium size, and about four years old.
•  A grey tiger kitten, about six months old.
•  A large orange and white tabby cat, three or four years old.
If found or seen, call Mike Mahoney at 558-1596.
Despite losing all their belongings, Mahoney said his family is holding up all right, and that the outpouring of community support has helped their spirits tremendously.
“There are just wonderful, wonderful things being done,” he said. “We are overwhelmed by all the support.”
Mahoney is also indebted to the Brandon and Pittsford fire departments. The houses on Rossiter Street are quite close together, but no other homes were damaged in the blaze.
“I can’t say enough,” Mahoney said.
And every day, Mahoney said, people are still asking him what they can do to help, and he makes a simple but important request.
“I tell them to check their smoke detectors and make sure they’re working,” he said. “That’s what you can do for me. That’s what saved my three ladies.”
• Donations to help the Mahoney family can be made at Lake Sunapee Bank in Brandon, or mailed to the American Legion Post 55’s Michael Mahoney Fund, P.O. Box 25, Brandon, VT 05733-0025.
•  The Brandon Fire Department’s Firemen’s Dance will be held at American Legion Post 55 on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Tickets are $10, food and drinks available. All proceeds will go to the Mahoney Fund.
•  A Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner will be held at American Legion Post 55 on Friday, Sept. 20, from 5-7:30 p.m. On the menu will be spaghetti and meatballs, tossed salad, bread, beverages and dessert. There will also be a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle. The public is welcome. The cost is $10, kids under 10 are $5. All proceeds benefit the Mahoney family.

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