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Community supports Allagash grandparents who lost ‘dream home’ to fire

ALLAGASH, Maine — The St. John Valley community is coming together to help an older Allagash couple and their young granddaughter who lost their home to a fire during the early morning hours on March 1.

Sterlin and Jayne Jackson lived at 767 Allagash Road in Allagash with their granddaughter when a fire broke out and destroyed the residence, which had been the Jackson’s “dream home” for more than 25 years, according to Jean Jackson, Sterlin Jackson’s sister.

The Jacksons and their granddaughter escaped the fire without injury, but lost all of their personal belongings.

Sterlin Jackson, 67, recently retired as a grader operator for Irving Woodlands, and Jayne, 65, continues to work as a caretaker for the elderly.

During the early days of their marriage, when Sterlin and Jayne were raising their now adult sons, the couple dreamed of building a camp to live in on the banks of the Allagash River, according to Jean Jackson.

“They had young boys at the time but they worked on that and worked on that,” Jean Jackson said. The home they built provided a haven not only for the Jacksons and their two boys but for many of Jayne’s nieces and nephews from Connecticut as well, who would often spend summers in Allagash at their aunt and uncle’s home on the river.

Firefighters from three area departments in Allagash, St. Francis and Fort Kent poured about 5,000 gallons of water onto the Jackson house, containing the fire to the residence, according to Allagash Fire Chief Mike Cushing.

None of the 15 volunteer firefighters who battled the blaze was injured, Cushing said.

One of the Jackson family cats died in the fire, but two others escaped.

The fire broke out in the home’s chimney, according to Cushing.

“The (Jacksons) discovered the fire had come through the chimney into the walls,” Cushing said. “The chimney was probably blocked full of creosote.”

Although the frame of the Jackson home is still standing, Cushing said he is not sure that rebuilding the home will be an option for the family.

“There was a lot of smoke and fire damage on the second floor and a lot of water damage on the first floor,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done there.”

In the meantime, Bobby Hafford of Allagash has agreed to allow the Jacksons to stay in a home his family owns and rents to hunters, until bear hunting season begins in late August.

Jean Jackson, as well as her niece, Corrinna Thibodeau and grandson Connor Pelletier have organized a turkey dinner fundraiser in support of Sterlin and Jayne Jackson.

“They lost most of their things and it is just a way for us to help them out. They are two of the most caring and kindest people, and for this to happen to them was absolutely horrible,” said Connor Pelletier.

The turkey dinner benefit will take place on Saturday, March 23, at 3 p.m. at the Allagash Community Center. Meal tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children under 5 years old. Take out orders also will be available.

There will be musical entertainment as well as a fundraising raffle with assorted prizes at the dinner, with the grand prize being a handcrafted quilt.

“They’re such nice people. It’s hard to believe something like this could happen to them,” Jean Jackson said. “They’re quiet people that never bother a soul. They keep to themselves and I’ve never heard anybody talk bad about them in my whole life.”

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