ARGYLE, Maine — Ashes from a wood stove caused a fire on Southgate Road on Tuesday morning that destroyed a house and garage and took the lives of two dogs, Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said.
“The origin is the porch, and the cause is careless disposal of ashes from a wood stove,” he said.
When firefighters arrived at 1023 Southgate Road at around 9:30 a.m., thick, black smoke was escaping from two windows, and the back side of the house, where the porch was located, was burning, said Jim Feero, Alton’s deputy fire chief.
“It was going good when we got there,” he said.
The two-story, white house was owned by Tracy Tenggren and occupied by her and her boyfriend, Daniel Valenzuela, the deputy chief said.
“They had left about an hour before,” Feero said. “They were kind of shook up” upon hearing the news.
The couple arrived home while firefighters fought the fire.
“We’re devastated,” Valenzuela said.
Firefighters initially fought the fire from inside the home, but when it got too hot and safety became an issue, they were forced to exit the structure and do an exterior attack, the deputy chief said. At that point, they knew they were going to lose the battle, he said.
“It’s totally gone,” Feero said. “It’s still standing, but it’s a total loss.”
Firefighters moved a large horse trailer parked in the driveway and could be seen removing saddles and other tack from the far end of the garage before it was destroyed.
The house had a breezeway that connected it to the two-car garage, which was added about a year or so ago, the deputy chief said. Two dogs that were crated in the garage died in the fire.
“I helped the gentleman bury them out back,” Feero said, referring to Valenzuela.
Neighbor Dorothy Jordan, who lives about 100 yards or so from Tenggren’s home, said at around 10 a.m. that she could see smoke and fire.
“There is a lot of smoke,” she said. “It’s a bad one.”
Tenggren has several large animals, which all appeared to be fine, Jordan said.
“She has two horses and a pony,” she said. “I can see them running around. I bet they want to get away from the smoke.”
The horses are fenced and their small barn was far enough away that the fire did not threaten it, Feero said.
Crews from Old Town, Alton, LaGrange, Glenburn and Milford fought the blaze, and no firefighter injuries were reported. Alton provides primary fire coverage for Argyle.
The roadway in front of the house is also called Route 116. It was closed to vehicle traffic at around 9:50 a.m. and one lane had reopened at around 2:30 p.m., Feero said. The other lane opened about an hour later.
The biggest obstacle in fighting the fire had nothing to do with firefighting, Feero said.
“The road conditions were terrible,” he said. “You really had to take your time.”
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived at the house Tuesday afternoon to go through the debris in an attempt to find the cause of the blaze. It didn’t take them long to determine the discarded wood stove ashes caused the fire, York said.