HOLLIS — One week after a fire destroyed their rental home, a newlywed Hollis couple is counting on the goodwill of others to help rebuild the life they'd established together.
Rob and Libby Masek moved into their first home in October, shortly after they eloped at Four Tree Island in Portsmouth.
Early last Wednesday morning, the couple awoke to smoke alarms going off in their 80 Main St. residence.
The Maseks escaped the building uninjured and Hollis fire officials, who arrived on the scene shortly before 3 a.m., were able to bring their landlord's pet cat to safety.
Fire crews were called to the scene from Amherst, Pepperell and Dunstable, Mass.
The morning's single-digit temperatures made for additional challenges in battling the blaze, as water hoses quickly froze, though the blaze was under control within two hours.
Fire officials said the home was left uninhabitable, with the attic and living room areas suffering heavy fire, smoke and water damage. The fire remains under investigation, though initial reports indicate it likely began in the building's chimney.
Martha Stabler owns the property, according to public records. Stabler was unable to be reached for comment.
Rob Masek's sister, Holly, said her brother and sister-in-law lost nearly all of their worldly possessions in the fire.
Holly Masek said the displaced couple is staying with relatives while they figure out what their next steps might be.
Rob Masek said he exited his home with nothing but his cell phone. The couple did not have renters insurance.
"The smell of water and smoke permeated into everything we might be able to recover," he said. "Most things had to be disposed of. Both of our laptops were fried."
Despite their enormous loss, the couple considers themselves blessed.
"At the end of the day, we're alive, safe and have each other," Rob Masek said.
A number of caring friends and strangers have already been quite generous in lending a hand.
As of Tuesday morning, friends and strangers had donated over $12,300 towards an online fund Holly Masek set up to assist her brother and sister-in-law.
"They never bothered with wedding registry, and were pretty much content with family hand-me-downs or things they'd collected over the years," said Holly Masek. "Now just about all of that is gone."
Those wishing to assist the Maseks may visit their fundraising page on the Go Fund Me website, email@example.com