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Woman rescues grandchildren in Pepperell fire (SLIDESHOW)

Woman rescues grandchildren in Pepperell fire (SLIDESHOW)

PEPPERELL – Four adults and three children were left homeless after a fire tore through the two-family home last week.
Carole Eaton was taken to the hospital with minor burns on May 18.

The following morning, she was outside the house with her daughter, Christine Shank, and her son, James Farrar, who just put $100,000 worth of work into the home.

Eaton, 71, was a hero, dragging Shank’s two children, ages 3 and 8, from their side of the home.

She saved the children, but she was upset that Molly, the 5-year-old Rottweiler, was left behind. It was the child or the dog, she said.

Another 20 seconds and the fire would have taken the children, Shank said.

There were no other injuries. Her son, his tenant Stephen Schofield and his minor son lived in the other half of the building. They were not all at home.

The fire was spotted by Pepperell Police Officer Daniel Adams from his cruiser. According to the police report, fire and EMS personnel were on the scene within a minute after he reported the blaze.

People arrived during the fire, already lending a helping hand. “Some lady took the shoes off her feet and gave them to me,” Shank said.

The Salvation Army put the family up for the night in Ayer, but the magnitude of their family’s loss was hitting home the next day.

Some things can never be replaced. Their dad’s ashes were in there. Shank hoped they might have survived the inferno.

“I have to worry about every penny,” she said. “It’s just us.”

They have no clothes of their own. Even their cell phones are gone.

Shank and her mother have no transportation. One car was burnt. Another blasted out an alarm when the door opened.

A closetful of clothes saved for the younger child is in ashes.

Already, the donations were coming in. A woman dropped off a gift card, saying it was from a neighbor. Another friend offered the use of a car, saying it was nothing great but it was insured.

Eaton was on the phone, trying to reach her insurance company. Farrar was trying to rescue what he could from the charred ruins.

The Salvation Army stopped by with some home-cooked food from the Senior Center, the outreach extension unit. They gave the family a voucher for the Fitchburg store and for Market Basket.

The Salvation Army paid for a second night at a hotel and the insurance company funded another week.

The building will be demolished, the family said. They do not know where they will live until it can be replaced. They need to remain local so Shank’s older child can get to school.

Donations can be made to the Farrar-Shank Fire Fund at LowellFive.

A separate fund is set up for the Schofields at

Groton Hair, Inc. is collecting donations. The salon is at 30 Hollis St., Groton.

“Everything we have is donated,” Shank said.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.

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