PAWTUCKET — Facing what is going to be a sad Christmas season anyway with the loss of her son, Danny, Doris Poulin was hit with another blow Thursday evening when an accidental fire forced her out of her home.
According to the Pawtucket Fire Department, a call came in at about 5:30 p.m. for a blaze in a duplex at 34-36 Home Street. Capt. Steven Parent said the fire began on a stove and spread to a back wall and then to the upper kitchen cabinets. He said the blaze burned out a window and all of the upper cabinets and caused smoke and water damage in other parts of the home. “It pretty much wiped out all of the kitchen area,” said Parent.
Parent said Poulin told firefighters that she had put a pot on the stove to cook something, and had then gone upstairs and become distracted. He said she heard the smoke alarm going off and initially tried to put the blaze out by herself, but then decided she should head outside. He said the fire crew that arrived “did a good job” of quickly bringing the blaze under control, but there was a significant amount of damage.
Poulin was uninjured, but with the charred interior and the electricity having to be shut off, she had to find alternative lodging, Parent said. “She's certainly had her share of troubles,” he noted.
The other side of the duplex, at 36 Home St., was not affected by the fire and the residents were allowed back inside.
Poulin's only son, Spc. Daniel Poulin, died on March 31 while serving active duty with the Massachusetts National Guard in Afghanistan. He had been due to return home in just two weeks.
The 26-year-old Poulin, who grew up in Pawtucket, was a gunner specialist who was critically injured when a military vehicle that he was riding in overturned. He was transported to a military hospital in Germany, and Poulin flew over to be by her son's side. The young soldier never recovered, however, succumbing to his injuries a few days later. In addition to his mother, father, sisters and other family members, Poulin left behind a five-year-old son.
On Friday, Doris Poulin and her sister, daughter, and other family members were at the house, carrying out clothing and other items and trying to clean off furniture and assess what was salvageable. “I lost almost everything,” said Poulin, noting that most of the items in the house either smelled of smoke or were covered by a layer of soot. She added that she did not have any insurance to cover the losses.
Poulin, who rented the duplex, said her landlord told her it would likely be a couple of months before the unit could be repaired. She said the Red Cross had provided her with a room at the Comfort Inn for three days, but beyond that, she didn't know where she was going to go. “I've never been homeless before. I don't know what I'm going to do,” she said.
Growing emotional, Poulin spoke of what a painful year 2011 had been for her. “I lost my father, my uncle and my son this year,” she stated, with tears in her eyes. Poulin's daughter came out and inquired what to do about Danny's military footlocker and other belongings that she found inside a closet. Luckily, her daughter noted, the items hadn't been burned, but would likely smell of smoke. “I never even opened his footlocker,” Poulin said, quietly. She added, “I just don't know what to do. I've never been in a fire before.”