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Fire takes more than home
NORWAY — When Martha Beall got home last week, she didn't realize that the day's events were going to forever change her life-- or perhaps even end it.
The afternoon began like any other, with a list of trivial, familiar events.
Beall came inside to set down her purse, and then went outside to tend to the barnyard animals. She came back inside, and fed the dogs some macaroni and cheese from the refrigerator.
"I was going to make some deer stew," she remembers. "I needed the big macaroni pan to make the stew, and so I began to soak it in the sink."
While giving the pan time to soak, Beall sat down on the couch with her dogs, and started to read a new library book. That's when she first began to suspect something was wrong in her home.
"I thought that I smelled smoke, so I got up to look around. I didn't see anything, and I stopped smelling it, so I sat back down and read a couple pages."
At this point, she noticed the smell again, stronger than before.
"There was a little bit of smoke coming out of my son's room," she said.
She entered the room to find smoke coming out of her son's closet.
"I saw a little bit of flame, and I thought 'I've got to dump water on this,'" she said.
She never made it back to the closet. When she went to the sink to get the water-filled macaroni pan, "I started hearing these big cracks, and then I heard a bang. I think it was the tv in his closet."
The smoke from her son's room, accompanied by flames, came around the corner from the bedroom to the kitchen.
Beall decided that the fire was too big to try to handle on her own. She called her dogs and opened to door to leave.
"When I opened the door, these big huge flames kind of shot out over the top of my head," said Beall. "If I was 3 or 4 inches taller, they would have burned my head. I could feel the heat."
Beall ran out of the house with the dogs, and prepared to run to a neighbor.
"When I turned around to tell the dogs to follow me, only one of the dogs was there." Even now, she doesn't know if the two other dogs had returned to the house, or whether they are still out there, wandering.
"We still have our fingers crossed, because our dogs are extremely loved," she said.
By the time emergency services began arriving, the house was a lost cause.
"I have never seen anything that big burn so quick," said Beall. "There was a little bit of flame, and by the time I was back down there, it had flames coming out everywhere. I've heard people say something would go up like a tinderbox. I never really believed that something that big could be ruined in such a short period of time."
The fire was catastrophic. Beall lived in the house with three children, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren. In all, seven people have been made homeless.
The only items that have survived the fire were in a shed. These include some furniture items that the family was planning on giving away. Now, their circumstances have changed.
"There's a table with mismatched chairs," said Beall. "A living room chair that wasn't fantastic. We were going to get rid of it. All of a sudden, that chair looks pretty good."
The shed was mostly filled with Christmas decorations, which aren't helping the family much now.
"My biggest treasures are in a metal box. I had papers and pictures that my kids drew. I had stuffed them in there so nothing would ever happen to them," said Beall. "Things like that can never be replaced. Those are my treasures."
Beall hopes that the box will eventually be recovered from the debris.
For the most part, the family is like any other that has been burned out of its residence. Their church has helped muster donations of clothes. The Red Cross put the family up for three nights in a local hotel. They hope to rent a cabin from a member of their church at an affordable rate. Next year, if things go well, the family may be able to install a trailer on their property.
"Clothes have been pouring in like you wouldn't believe," said Beall. "We all have family that would never let us starve."
In addition, Guy E. Rowe Elementary School is sponsoring a benefit dinner to help the family from 5:00 to 6:30 on December 7.
But for Martha Beall, the aftermath of the disaster is more deadly than the fire itself.
Of all of the items that were burnt in the fire, and that includes just about every possession the family had, there was one thing that Beall literally cannot live without.
"My medicine," she said. "I have all these medicines. Literally, like five of them, I can't live without."
Days before the fire, Beall was mysteriously dropped from Mainecare, and she had just begun the process of having it reinstated through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), when the fire wiped out all of her medicine.
Beall, whose medicines cost $2,237.28 every month, had filled her prescriptions on October 31. The medicine was supposed to take her through the month of November, which she needed to procure and file the needed paperwork.
Now, she is left without her medicine, without the means to buy her medicine, and stuck in a bureaucratic gap in coverage that literally threatens her life.
"I haven't had any medicine or insulin for days," she said. She usually receives six insulin shots every day.
Her list of health conditions is long. Panic disorder. Severe diabetes. Heart problems. High blood pressure. Depression. Anxiety. Fibromyalgia.
"I am starting to have some things going on here that are really not good, physically," said Beall. "I have to get this medicine."
The symptom that keeps her out of work is a result of her panic disorder. She sometimes faints without warning.
"Most people didn't like that I would faint if something bugged me," said Beall.
The medicine lies at the center of a muddled labyrinth of paperwork, government agencies, and medical documents, but Beall simply doesn't have the time to navigate the maze.
"My feet and hands go all tingly," said Beall. "Things are really starting to bother me. Last night, I couldn't stop shaking."
She needs to prove that her medical conditions qualify her as disabled, a classification that her doctor says is amply substantiated. DHHS told her that they needed certain medical records from her doctor. Her doctor says that he sent them, but DHHS says that they haven't received them. Even if the paperwork is received, Beall says that she's been told it could take 45 days to process them.
"If I don't get my medicine I won't have to worry about housing," said Beall.