ST. GEORGE, N.B. — The old white house on the hill was home to an elderly widow and her three adult sons, fondly described by friends and neighbours as a special family with a well-known connection to the town's fire department.
When it was hit by fire at noon Tuesday, firefighters made a grim find: the bodies of an elderly woman and three men.
Rick Doucet, the area's member of the legislature, said those found inside were Esther Boyd, who was in her 80s, and her sons Davey, Billy and Robbie.
"Davey was an honorary firefighter and I don't think there was a firefighter that had a dry eye today," said Doucet.
"The mother took care of them and she was a trouper. The entire community is in shock and in mourning right now."
Doucet said each man had mental challenges, but Davey Boyd's work as a honorary firefighter left a big impression in St. George, a town of 1,500 in the southwest corner of the province.
"Davey always wore his (firefighter's) uniform, the formal uniform — I swear he wore it day in day out," Doucet said.
"Winter, spring, summer, fall — you'd see Davey going ... All the crews, the fire chiefs, all the firefighters took a lot of pride in that ... He was part of the team, no matter what."
Julie West, an administrator with the Town of St. George, said Boyd "would clean the trucks, and help out."
Neighbour Eleanor Blackier, who lives across the street, said she spotted smoke pouring from the Boyds' front door around noon.
"I was going to the store when I noticed the fire," she said. "There was smoke billowing out through the door ... You could see where smoke had come out around the windows. They were all discoloured from the smoke."
Blackier said Esther Boyd was a quiet, hard-working woman who had lived in the neighbourhood with her sons for many years. The family used to own a local hardware store.
"She kept to herself quite a bit ... (but) we were on very good terms," said Blackier, who has lived in the neighbourhood since the early 1970s. "It's very, very shocking."
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Neighbour Carole Landry, a 44-year-old payroll co-ordinator, said the three men appeared to be in their 50s.
"There was only one (son) really that usually went out all the time ... but the others, we hardly saw them," Landry said.
"The only one that I really know, that walked around, was Davey. Everybody knew him ... Every parade they had, he always sat on the fire truck."
Landry said her neighbour's home did not appear to be badly damaged by the fire.
"It's kind of troubling, because we really don't know what actually happened."
Shirley Ingalls, a long-time friend of the family, said the town is in a state of shock.
"Esther was a wonderful Christian mom ... It's very sad and our little community is hard hit with it."
Ingalls said she knows Esther Boyd from choir, and had been a close friend for 20 years.
"I know they're still all together in heaven," she said of the family.
— By Michael MacDonald and Kieran Leavitt in Halifax
The Canadian Press