READFIELD — Two people and a bevy of animals were seeking temporary living arrangements Wednesday after fire damaged their Route 41 home.

Cathy Holland, who owns the home at 537 Route 41, also known as Winthrop Road, and her roommate, Max Abodaca, were unsure where they would go after the 11 a.m. fire. Holland said she needed a place that would accept her four dogs and five cats.

The blaze left the 1800s Cape Cod-style home with smoke and heat damage, and it destroyed an attached shed and garage. Fire also badly damaged a small unattached barn.

Good Samaritans and firefighters were able to rescue the dogs and some of the cats from the house. Other cats remained inside but were believed to be alive.

“They were sitting up in the window, watching us,” said Readfield Fire Chief Lee Mank.

No injuries were reported.

“That’s all that matters,” Abodaca said. “Thank God. That’s all I can say.”

Holland, who has lived in the house since 2000, said she has insurance.

Mank said the house probably is salvageable, thanks to a quick response by firefighters from Lakes Region Mutual Aid communities, which also includes Fayette, Manchester, Mount Vernon, Vienna, Wayne and Winthrop. The house is just a couple hundred feet north of the Winthrop town line.

“We’re fortunate,” he said.

An investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to try and determine what sparked the fire. Mank said it appears the blaze originated in the garage, which was flattened, taking with it Abodaca’s car, a 2011 Honda Fit.

Mank said the garage was engulfed with flames when firefighters arrived. Crews let the garage burn as they turned their full effort to saving the house, which briefly caught fire.

Tanker trucks shuttled water from the Route 41 boat launch on Maranacook Lake just a couple of miles away.

The heat, coupled with temperatures in the low 70s, took a toll on firefighters, Mank said. Firefighters took turns resting in a shady section of lawn and gulped water after the fire was out.

“It’s warm,” Mank said. “There’s a lot of rehabilitation going on.”

John Appese, of Monmouth, was working on a relative’s house across the street when he went outside and noticed the garage on fire.

“As soon as we saw that, something blew,” Appese said. “Something went ‘boom.'” Appese and other witnesses said they heard at least two explosions from the garage, and perhaps as many as four.

Appese said he ran to the house and yelled in through the doorway to find out whether anybody was inside. He said he was able to get one of the dogs out of the house.

“I immediately called 911,” he said.

Holland and Abodaca were at work at Central Maine Medical Center when a neighbor called to tell them about the fire.

“It’s a call you never want to get,” Holland said.

Abodaca, who has lived in the house since 2005, said there was nothing unusual in the garage before he left for work. The garage was built shortly before Holland moved in.

“I went through the garage, and everything was fine,” Abodaca said. “I don’t know how the fire would have started.”

Abodaca said everything in the garage was unplugged because of his concern about causing a fire.

“Fire safety is like my number one thing,” he said.

Holland said a pair of horses, a mare and a foal, usually live in the barn. Both were moved recently to Corinna.

“We moved them out when I got pneumonia,” Holland said. She recently returned to work but was not yet well enough to return the horses to her barn.

The fire is the latest of several that have broken out along a quarter-mile stretch of road over the past few years. One of them, just a couple houses away from Holland’s home, destroyed a large garage in February. Another, which occurred about 18 months ago, destroyed a home on the Winthrop side of the line.

“This stretch is getting busy for us,” Winthrop Fire Chief Dan Brooks said.

Mank said all of the fires have been accidental.

“They’ve all been explained,” he said. “It’s nothing suspicious. It’s just unfortunate.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
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