WHITEFIELD — A Rockland Road home was heavily damaged by a fire Wednesday night after the man living inside fell asleep while smoking a cigarette on the couch, an investigator said.

Nick Teele, who rented the house by himself, escaped the burning building on his own with minor burns and smoke inhalation.

Firefighters from six area departments battled flames, cold and high wind to extinguish the blaze at 90 Rockland Road.

Whitefield Fire Chief Tim Pellerin said Teele was evaluated on the scene for superficial burns and minor smoke inhalation, but was not taken to the hospital.

The fire has been deemed accidental by the state fire marshal’s office, Sgt. Kenneth Grimes said Thursday.

Grimes said the cause of the fire appeared to be careless disposal of smoking materials.

“The fire originated in the living room, actually in the couch,” Grimes said Thursday, adding that Teele acknowledged he had fallen asleep on the couch and had been smoking.

A man at the scene, not a firefighter, slipped on ice from tankers at the fire, hit his head and was taken to the hospital. His name was not released.

Pellerin said the first firetruck was on the scene, which is in the far northern end of town, seven minutes after the fire was reported at 8:19 p.m. Wednesday.

Heavy fire was coming out of the back corner of the two-story, gambrel-style residence when firefighters arrived and smoke was coming from windows elsewhere in the home.

The weather added to the challenge of stopping the fire. At the time of the blaze, wind speeds were estimated at 16 miles per hour, with gusts up to 35 miles per hour and the temperature was about 20 degrees, according to National Weather Service data collected at the Augusta State Airport.

“I was really concerned, with a structure fire and the prevailing winds we had blowing, that the wind, when the windows blew out, would push the fire through the whole building,” Pellerin said.

Pellerin said damage was heaviest in the living room and kitchen, on the first floor.

The home sustained about $75,000 in damage but appeared able to be salvageable, Pellerin said.

Teele was able to retrieve some clothing and other belongings from the second floor and is staying with family.

“Everybody worked well together; it was a good save,” Pellerin said. “That truly shows how mutual aid and training pay off. Even with adverse weather conditions, the crews did a good job.”

Pellerin said firefighters were on the scene for about three hours. Whitefield firefighters were assisted by firefighters from Jefferson, Alna, Windsor, Somerville and Farmingdale.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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