Fort Fairfield struggles with loss of Elmer family members in fatal fire|

4 weeks ago

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Town officials and community members are trying to deal with the loss of three members of the Elmer family, who died in a house fire early Thursday.

The victims of the fire at the 2-story home at 85 Riverside Avenue are Erik Elmer, 47; Jessica Elmer, 39; and their 17-year-old daughter Rose Elmer, according to Maine Department of Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s office.

A minor who is not being named was the only family member to survive the fire, according to Moss. 

“Clearly folks are devastated because to lose anybody in a fire is tragic, [but] to lose a whole family and leaving a young person behind is just awful,” Tim Goff, Fort Fairfield town manager, said Friday.

The surviving family member is a sophomore at Fort Fairfield High School, according to Goff. Counselors are currently helping the student. Tanya Staples, superintendent of MSAD 20, stated in an email that other students are being helped to deal with the tragedy as well.

“The Student Support Services team, along with staff members and community members who have connections to our students, have been providing outlets for those who need a space to grieve or to share their feelings as they navigate these tragic circumstances,” Staples wrote.

The family moved to Fort Fairfield from Boise, Idaho, according to information provided by the local library, where Rose Elmer worked. After the fire, a relative of the Elmer family flew in from outside of Maine to be with the surviving juvenile, according to Goff.

Jessica Elmer was a nurse who worked at Borderview Rehab & Living Center in Van Buren and  Erik Elmer was a bassist musician, according to their Facebook profiles.

A message seeking comment from Borderview Rehab & Living Center was not returned.

“Erik was a brother bass player up here in the county,” said Benjamin Yeager, a friend of Erik Elmer via Facebook Messenger. “He was a kind, happy person [and] every moment is a gift. He will be missed by many.”

Rose Elmer graduated from Fort Fairfield High School in May and was working her first job as a part-time archivist at the Fort Fairfield Public Library, according to a statement from library staff. Her dream was to become a fashion designer, staff said.

One project Rose was working on for the library was creating a Dungeons and Dragons style game that she was planning to unveil as a community event. The event would have happened next month, library staff said.

Town officials are planning on working with library staff to memorialize Rose Elmer. “As a town staff we’ll do something to remember her in concert with the staff down at the library,” Goff said.

The Fort Fairfield Fire Department is raising funds for smoke detectors for the Fort Fairfield community through a Smoke Detector Drive after the fire marshal’s initial report that there were no working smoke detectors in the home.

There is an outpouring of support from the Fort Fairfield community wanting to help the surviving member of the Elmer family online and the firefighters involved with putting out the fire at 85 Riverside Ave., Goff said.

RJ’s Market donated breakfast pizzas to the firefighters who were still fighting the residential fire on the morning of Nov. 2. Town council member Pat Canavan made sandwiches for the firefighters as they were still fighting the hotspots of the fire into the afternoon.

The Fort Fairfield fire is the third fatal fire in Aroostook County in 2023 and the Elmers’ deaths are among 19 fatalities as a result of fires in Maine this year, according to Moss.

Previous fatal fires in Aroostook County this year occurred in Caribou in January where 30- year-old Jason Donahue died in an apartment building fire at 7 Water St. and in Mars Hill in May where 87-year-old Robert Koczera lost his life. There were two fatal fires in Fort Fairfield in January of 2020.