Kimie Smothermon said her family is trying to piece their life back together after an early morning fire took the life of her 7-year-old grandson, Nova Demanche, last week.
Demanche, who lived in Merrimack, New Hampshire, was staying with Smothermon for school vacation last week at her home at 32 Thorwald Ave. in Hampton, New Hampshire, and Smothermon said she tried to save Nova but found the fire was too intense.
“The fact that I couldn’t save Nova, I almost feel guilty that I’m not more burned,” said Smothermon, who escaped with six other family members from the Feb. 27 fire. “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.”
The three-alarm fire was called in shortly before 1 a.m. The blaze spread to the home next door at 34 Thorwald Ave., where three people were displaced. It also destroyed a guinea pig rescue operation run by Smothermon and her other grandson, and some of the guinea pigs in the home died in the fire, though many were saved.
Firefighters attempted to rescue Demanche several times but found the flames were too strong to enter the building, according to Hampton fire Capt. Justin Cutting. Demanche’s remains were recovered by first responders after firefighters put the flames out in below-freezing temperatures, and his identity was released over the weekend. An autopsy revealed he died from thermal and inhalation injuries, according to the state fire marshal.
Smothermon said Demanche’s remains were being cremated Monday and will later be sprinkled at locations like his favorite parks and outdoor spots.
Smothermon said she smelled something burning prior to the fire. After investigating and finding nothing, she went back to her bed located in the back of the home. Demanche was staying in the room with Smothermon while the other kids were staying in her other grandson Alex’s room near the front of the house.
Smothermon said she was awakened after hearing someone scream. When she came out of her bedroom, she saw the entire wall at the front of the house had exploded into flames near where Demanche’s four cousins and sisters were sleeping.
Smothermon and most of the family got outside only to realize Demanche was still inside. Smothermon said she tried twice to enter the building but found the fire was too intense. She suffered burns and bruises and was transported to a Boston hospital.
Smothermon said her other grandchildren grabbed several guinea pigs while escaping the fire, leaving them outside where neighbors picked them up and brought them inside. An animal rescue in Chichester took the guinea pigs the next day now that Smothermon’s rescue, called the Guinea Pig Sanctuary, was destroyed.
Demanche loved to laugh, play with Legos, ride his bike and roller skate, according to his obituary. It also said that he loved cars, fire alarms and ceiling fans — objects he found fascinating and wanted to learn about by building and taking apart. She said the family is asking loved ones to celebrate his life with pinwheels at his memorial service Tuesday to reflect his love of ceiling fans, as well as sunflowers, his favorite flower.
“He was just an amazing child,” Smothermon said. “A boy whose favorite things are a flower, a type of animal, a ceiling fan and fire alarms … that whole combination shows that he was highly intelligent.”
The boy’s death has devastated the family. Smothermon said Demanche’s mother has been inconsolable, spending much of the first two days after the fire holding her son’s clothes.
“She just wanted to smell him,” Smothermon said. “She’s a wreck.”