HOLDEN, Maine — Fire investigators know that the early Sunday morning fire that destroyed an 1800s farmhouse on Mann Hill Road started in the attached barn, but not what caused it, local and state fire officials said Monday.
Because of the extent of the damage, the cause cannot be determined, Holden Fire Chief Jim Ellis said.
“The fire originated in the barn, but we don’t know why,” he said.
James and Heidi Turner and their three young children escaped the blaze without injury, but the home and its attached barn were destroyed.
“The barn is flat; the house is still standing,” Ellis said, adding, however, that the home is not livable. “It’s a total loss. There is heat, smoke and fire damage in the house.”
Heidi Turner noticed flames shooting out of the barn when she went downstairs at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday to make toast for one of her children, Assistant Chief Andrew Emery of the Holden Fire Department said.
She called 911 and alerted her family, and “they got out with what they were wearing,” he said.
When firefighters arrived, the barn was ablaze and flames were making their way toward the house, which is where firefighters stopped it, Emery said. Three dogs, two cats, two horses and a pony were rescued, but one cat and a flock of chickens perished in the fire, he said.
Firefighters from Holden, Eddington, Orrington, Brewer, Dedham-Lucerne, Bradley, Milford and Hampden went to the fire scene. The blaze was under control within a couple of hours and completely out by midafternoon, Emery said.
Fire investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office spent Monday morning going through the debris looking for the cause, Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said.
“It’s undetermined due to the extent of the damage,” he said.
Friends and neighbors are already reaching out to help the family, said Jenn Newcomb, who lives near the Turners on Mann Hill Road.
“The outpouring from this community has been amazing,” she said. “My dining room is full of donated clothes.”
One man who lives across town stopped by to drop off items he picked up for the children, saying he just had to help, she said.
“It’s been amazing,” Newcomb said, adding, “That is what neighbors do.”
The plan is to set up an account Tuesday for the family at the Bangor Federal Credit Union, she said. A spaghetti dinner and auction fundraiser has been scheduled for Nov. 19 at Holden Elementary School. Doors open for the dinner at 5:30 p.m., and silent and live auctions begin at 7 p.m.
Those who want more information about how to help out the Turners can call Newcomb at 843-0662 or Allison Valley, 843-6343.