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With help from friends, strangers, Franklin family recovering after fire

  • Ken Moro accompanies Dave Wheeler, a fire inspector hired by the insurance company, in an inspection of his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Ken Moro accompanies Dave Wheeler, a fire inspector hired by the insurance company, in an inspection of his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning. Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • The Moro family's living room of their home in Franklin photographed on Friday, January 24, 2014,  was partially destroyed in a house fire in the early morning hours of Thursday, January 23, 2014.  Eight people were displaced after the fire: Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    The Moro family's living room of their home in Franklin photographed on Friday, January 24, 2014, was partially destroyed in a house fire in the early morning hours of Thursday, January 23, 2014. Eight people were displaced after the fire: Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • A framed document lays covered in ash while Ken Moro inspects his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    A framed document lays covered in ash while Ken Moro inspects his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning. Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Ken Moro looks up at the damage to his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Ken Moro looks up at the damage to his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning. Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Kristen Moro, her daughter Izabella Morrow, 4, and Kristen's parents Ken and Beth Moro sit for a portrait on Friday, January 24, 2014  in Ken and Beth's hotel room in Tilton after their house in Franklin caught fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Kristen Moro, her daughter Izabella Morrow, 4, and Kristen's parents Ken and Beth Moro sit for a portrait on Friday, January 24, 2014 in Ken and Beth's hotel room in Tilton after their house in Franklin caught fire early Thursday morning. Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Ken Moro accompanies Dave Wheeler, a fire inspector hired by the insurance company, in an inspection of his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • The Moro family's living room of their home in Franklin photographed on Friday, January 24, 2014,  was partially destroyed in a house fire in the early morning hours of Thursday, January 23, 2014.  Eight people were displaced after the fire: Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • A framed document lays covered in ash while Ken Moro inspects his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Ken Moro looks up at the damage to his family's house in Franklin on Friday, January 24, 2014 after a fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Kristen Moro, her daughter Izabella Morrow, 4, and Kristen's parents Ken and Beth Moro sit for a portrait on Friday, January 24, 2014  in Ken and Beth's hotel room in Tilton after their house in Franklin caught fire early Thursday morning.  Eight people were displaced after the fire, Ken, his wife Beth, their daughter Kristen, Kristen's daughters Meaghan, 18, and Izabella, 4, and three renters.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

A fire in a home can be surprisingly silent, say the survivors of an early morning blaze Thursday that left eight Franklin residents seeking shelter on a frozen night.

The fire that moved between exterior walls and across the interior of the first-floor ceiling did not immediately trigger smoke detectors and did not wake a mother and her 4-year-old daughter sleeping directly beneath the increasing heat.

Once it was discovered, however, members of the Moro family, who have owned the 100-year-old, three-story home for the last decade, said they have been surrounded by sound, and all of that sound has been welcomed.

At first, the sounds were the shrieks of sirens and yells of first responders working together with chain saws and axes to fight the two-alarm fire at 18 Auburn St.

Later came the sounds of a community offering support, said Beth Moro, who owns the home with her husband of 54 years, Ken.

The most common of these sounds has come from her daughter’s cell phone.

“Sometimes I think it is going to explode,” Beth Moro said Friday.

Support network

Offers of help have come from neighbors with pizza, acquaintances offering bags of toys and a local mechanic offering free auto repair. Two of the family’s cats are housed for free at the animal shelter. The American Red Cross has helped with pretty much everything else.

Beyond the trauma of surviving a home fire, the Moro family faces additional challenges. Beth Moro, 74, has Parkinson’s disease. Her husband has late-stage cancer that has metastasized throughout his body. Their daughter, Kristen Moro, 38, lives with a chronic kidney disorder that has her on permanent disability. When firefighters suggested the family throw away their medicine following its exposure to smoke, that was not easy to hear, Beth Moro said.

Except, the phone rang at 3 a.m. Thursday, just like a fireman had promised. And while Beth and Ken Moro stood in the warmth of a neighbor’s home as more than 50 firefighters from Franklin and surrounding communities battled the fire, they found hope in a woman’s voice. Kay Mahoney was calling from the Red Cross.

Mahoney told Beth Moro that the family would be all right. The Red Cross had secured shelter for them at the Holiday Inn Express in Tilton. All their basic needs would be met, including immediate replacement of any medical supplies, as well as food and clothing. By 5:30 a.m., after little more than four hours since the fire was reported, the family and other residents were in the hotel.

Respect all around

While inside her mother was finding hope in a stranger’s voice, Kristen Moro was outside witnessing the kindnesses of firefighters and police officers. One of her most vivid memories is of a fireman walking from her home, holding the family’s 2-year-old, 22-pound orange cat, Riely.

“He didn’t just take him and throw him in the snow. He handed him to someone. He made sure our cat was safe. That shows respect,” she said.

Franklin fire Capt. Gary Hicks was the man who found Riely in the kitchen, carried him outside and handed him to a police officer.

“He wasn’t happy,” Hicks said of the cat.

While Hicks went back inside to help fight the fire, Kristen Moro said she saw her daughter, Meaghan, 18, leap from her car to take the cat. Meaghan had carried her sister, Izabella, 4, from the home. With her cat Riely also safe, Meaghan drove away with two of her grandparents’ tenants, who are more like family than renters, the family said.

“We thought the house was going to explode,” said Greg Brooks, the second-floor tenant who discovered the smoke. “We just couldn’t watch it. Smoke was coming out of everywhere.”

Kristen Moro remained. Outside in her neighbor’s driveway, she watched. She watched out of respect for her father, whom she said had completely renovated the home over the years. There was respect for the home; she likened watching it burn to the feeling of an impending death of a loved one. And there was more.

“Those firefighters were in there risking their lives, those policemen, to save our family’s things,” she said. “The least I can do is stand out there and watch.”

So, Kristen Moro stood for hours in the blocked-off street, among the fire engines pumping frigid water from what, Hicks said, had been a difficult hydrant to open because of the cold.

They saved the pictures

When Hicks and his crew arrived shortly after the 1:05 a.m. tone sent them to Auburn Street, they at first did not see signs of fire. Once inside, Hicks said some smoke was visible, but not enough for firefighters to yet use oxygen.

“It hadn’t really popped out yet,” Hicks said. He said firefighters were not sure where exactly the fire was on the second floor, and they had to hunt for it.

Once their searching axes freed the fire from within the walls, the house blackened quickly, Hicks said.

Outside, police officers struggled to spread sand on the frozen driveway, which was making it difficult for firefighters to save the home. One firefighter fell and was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

But they did save the home. It was not easy considering the extent of the fire and the age of the structure, Hicks said, but they saved it. The cause of the fire was determined later to be an electrical malfunction, according to an inspector’s report. The wiring is about 60 years old, Kristen Moro said.

The cream-painted Dutch Colonial now stands with a blackened face. The home’s scarred first and second floors will be restored within four months, Ken Moro said.

“The best thing that happened, under the circumstances, was the firefighters taking the pictures off the walls,” Beth Moro said. “That shows nothing but respect.”

Her husband agreed, and pointed to where firefighters had placed the pictures of his wife’s parents along with the family’s computer.

“They could not have been any more kind,” Ken Moro said.

‘Bittersweet’

Back at the Holiday Inn Express in Tilton later Friday, the family seemed more at ease without the smell of stale smoke and the darkened reality of their home. Their expressions of emotion moved quickly from the pain of loss to fear to that of teasing and encouraging one another.

Beth Moro said she was astonished by the kindnesses of strangers, of friends, of neighbors. She said she had cried “a little” since the fire, but that she has been “guarding” herself, and will cry “when it’s time.”

The mother and daughter were most near tears when they spoke of firefighters and neighbors. That they were not sure where they would go when it is time to check out of the hotel tomorrow morning was not a concern. The family has received many offerings of temporary residence.

“What did we ever do to deserve this support?” Beth Moro asked.

Kristen Moro has an idea.

“My mom is always paying it forward,” she said, looking at her mother across the little table in the small dining area of the hotel. “She volunteers everywhere, including the soup kitchen once a week. She deserves it.”

Families on vacation walked in and out of the hotel’s dining area Friday and frequently paused near the table where Beth and Kristen sat with the tenant, Brooks. The strangers seemed to sense something had happened, but did not question. They frequently entertained the frisky Izabella with banter. More than one made the child laugh before quietly leaving the room.

“See?” Kristen Moro said, referring to the interactions.

“It is bittersweet,” Beth Moro said. “All this good from all the bad.”

Legacy Comments1

"They could not have been any more kind." Great sentence on this excellent coverage of this unfortunate fire. This story was written wonderfully, from a human interest standpoint encapsulating the great service the firefighters do in that community.A very dangerous job that I am forever grateful for these professional firefighters in our communities in NH.

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