Paul Deschaine, left, stands with Michael Paradis after being drawn as the winners at the 2018 St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in Mars Hill. Credit: Courtesy of Tomi Henderson

Paul Deschaine, coach for Central Aroostook girls varsity basketball team in Mars Hill, couldn’t have imagined what would happen after the first scrimmage of the season.

Deschaine’s phone was exploding with calls after the game in Washburn, but he didn’t answer them because he was busy organizing the players to go home. But Deschaine’s wife, Brittany, was there and answered a call from her mother-in-law who told her that their house was on fire.

The community has rallied around the Deschaine family since the Dec. 2 fire. A GoFundMe page set up by family friend Britney Tompkins had already raised $10,000 in three days, and Paul Deschaine’s employer, Ascent Global Logistics, told him that the company would match up to $10,000.

A dozen teachers and basketball players in the Mars Hill community even volunteered to put up a Christmas tree and decorations to make the Deschaines’ Christmas as normal as possible.

“It was pretty shocking. [The Panthers] had a really good game and played well,” Deschaine said. “The excitement was there after the game, and the excitement went away real fast soon as we got the phone call.”

Someone driving by the Deschaines’ home at 71 Robinson Road in Blaine saw the flames and called the fire department. No one was home because the whole family was at the game.

By the time Paul and Brittany Deschaine made the 45-minute trip from Washburn, the fire was already out. The fire had started next to where they and their baby sleep, Paul Deschaine said.

Central Aroostook High School Athletic Director Heather Bradbury met Deschaine at his burned home to ask if he wanted to take the season off, but the coach declined and was back to work the next day for a scrimmage in Washburn against Madawaska.

“It was one of those things I wanted to keep it out of my mind, and I wanted to keep it as normal as I could,” Deschaine said. “That’s the one thing I can say that the basketball team, the parents of the team and the community has been so supportive that it’s been unreal.”

Deschaine said he has coached the members of the varsity team since he was the junior high coach for Central Aroostook and wants to make sure he is there to support them.

Deschaine plans to rebuild what was lost but won’t be able to do so until the spring. The Deschaine family is staying at Blaine Country Cabins for the month of December until they decide their next move.

“[My wife and I] always joked about leaving and going somewhere South, but after a situation like this, it opened up our eyes that this is where we need to be,” Deschaine said.

Deschaine said he had lived in his house for 12 years, and one thing his family has taken away from their experience is not take anything for granted.

The fire was one of three in the Mars Hill-Blaine communities within four days. It is not known if the fires are linked or what caused them, but the state fire marshal’s office is investigating. 

The other two were at William Barton’s renovated home at 20 Silver St. around 3 a.m. on Dec. 1, and at Shane Kingsbury’s home at 5 Church St. around 4:38 a.m. Dec. 4. No one was at the Barton home at the time, and the smoke detector awoke Kingsbury’s wife and four kids who escaped unharmed. All three homes had extensive damage.

“It is unusual, but, you never know, fire can happen anytime,” said Mars Hill Fire Chief Gerald Cousins.