Couple lose home to fire

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EAST DORSET — Clarke and Barbara Comollo escaped a dangerous blaze in their home at 117 Benedict Road on Monday night, and their family members and friends are trying to help them get back on their feet.

The couple, who own Comollo Antiques and Wine on Main Street, were not injured in the fire, and their two cats also escaped unharmed. But their house is gutted, because of damage from smoke and water that downflooded the rest of the house.

"They're considering it a total loss," said Kerry Mackinnon, who is Clarke Comollo's sister and spoke to the Journal on the couple's behalf. "It looks great from the outside, but because of how the fire was in the walls and went up it took down the ceiling on the top floor and the first floor. The whole upstairs is now in the downstairs."

The couple are OK, but are dealing with shock, Mackinnon said Wednesday.

"They're having a tough go ... reality set in last night and this morning," she said.

Mackinnon said the outpouring of support from the community has been impressive.

"I spent the morning greeting people coming into my shop dropping things off for Clarke and Barbara — flowers, clothing, personal care items. It's very cool," she said. "I had a bad accident about 10 years ago and the community just carried us. So I'm seeing a lot of the same sort of beautiful energy happening again."

Mackinnon set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding effort on Tuesday at https://www.gofundme.com/clarke-and-barbara-comollo, and it had raised more than $5,000 by midday Wednesday. The Perfect Wife Restaurant and Tavern planned to donate 10 percent of its proceeds from Thursday night's business to the cause.

Mackinnon said the outpouring shows that despite its negative reputation of late, social media can be a positive force in pulling communities together in times of trouble.

"Friends I haven't seen or heard from in a million years are throwing money at it. It's very beautiful, very moving," she said. "You remember why you live here. We're so blessed that these are our friends and neighbors, that this is our community."

Mackinnon said the fire apparently started when a lamp fell onto a laundry basket on the second floor, and spread through the walls. She said Barbara Comollo told her she discovered the fire when she arrived home Monday night and smelled electrical smoke.

Firefighters from Dorset and Manchester responded to provide aid to the East Dorset Fire Department, as did the Northshire Rescue Squad and Manchester Police.

Wendy Armstrong, who lives in an apartment in the back of the property, said she found out about the fire when Barbara Comollo knocked on her door. "Call 911, the house is on fire," Comollo said, according to Armstrong.

Clarke Comollo is an administrator of the Northshire Community Forum on Facebook. On that page, there was an outpouring of support and offers of assistance and temporary housing for the couple, and relief that all had escaped safely.

"As many of you may have heard, our house burned last night. We are a little freaked but thanks to Kerry [Mackinnon] and all our friends, we will make it back," Clarke Comollo wrote on the Forum.

Tuesday, Vermont State Police said Clarke Comollo faces a charge of assault on a protected professional.

Trooper Raymond Witkowski told the Journal that Comollo ran back into the house and when paramedics went in after him, he allegedly assaulted them as they tried to pull him out.

Mackinnon said she was told that Comollo, who was sleeping when the fire broke out, thought his wife was still in the house.

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