AUGUSTA — Snow lightly blanketed the couch near the broken window, the white a bright contrast against black remains.

A few hours earlier the house had been ravaged by fire and heat. Now, it was see-your-breath cold.

“It’s a mess,” Rodney Vigue said. “The whole thing is totaled.”

Vigue rummaged through the debris looking for salvageable items Friday, a day after fire ripped through the first floor of his 60-by-30-foot two-story home at the end of Wilderness Way, a private drive off Outlet Road near the Chelsea town line.

No one was injured by the blaze, which broke out around 10:30 p.m., Thursday, but two cats and a bird were killed, Vigue said. A third cat was still missing Friday afternoon.

“He’d jump on your finger and he’d go on your should and talk to you,” Vigue said of the bird. “He was pretty neat.”

Vigue, 51, shares the home with his grown children and a 5-year-old grandchild. Only his son, Darike Vigue, was home when the fire broke out. He was sleeping in a downstairs bedroom.

“He heard the smoke alarm,” said Vigue, who was visiting a friend out of town at the time. “When he opened the bedroom door, all he saw was fire.”

Darike Vigue grabbed a bag of medicine and ran out the door.

“The occupant was able to get out because the smoke detectors worked,” said Battalion Chief David Groder, of the Augusta Fire Department.

The fire was well under way by the time firefighters arrived.

“There was fire coming out of the front door and looking over the top (of the house) you could tell there was fire in the rear of the building as well,” Groder said. “You could tell it was contained to the first floor.”

Though it had not yet started to snow in earnest, the long, winding, narrow driveway leading to the home was a challenge, Groder said. But crews were able to maintain a steady supply of water with the help of firefighters and tankers from Chelsea, Gardiner, Togus and Windsor. Firefighters from Hallowell and Vassalboro handled other calls within the city, Groder said.

The bulk of the fire was out in about 10 minutes, Groder said, but the last firefighters didn’t leave until 1 a.m. Friday.

“There was a lot of overhaul to be done,” Groder said. “There were a lot of personal items.”

An investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was at the home Friday trying to determine how the blaze started, but the fire was not suspicious, Groder said. He believes the fire started around a wood stove in the downstairs living room.

“I’m not sure what the actual cause was, but it was in that area around the wood stove,” Groder said.

The upstairs sustained smoke and heat damage, but the biggest impact was on the first floor, where contents were largely destroyed.

“The structure seems to be sound,” Groder said. “The sheet rock did the job.”

Vigue said the house is insured, though he’s not sure whether it can be salvaged or if it will have to be torn down and rebuilt.

“The whole thing has got to be gutted right out,” he said.

Vigue said the fire department responded quickly and worked fast and “did a good job of saving it.”

Vigue and his family are staying a couple of nights in a local hotel courtesy of the American Red Cross. His insurance company has said it will pay for lodging as well. Vigue was hoping to salvage some of his clothes.

Vigue’s brother, Fred Vigue, and other family members were at the house Friday to help him clean up. Fred Vigue said family members were arranging meals and plans are under way for a benefit supper. He said family will make sure Rodney Vigue and his family have a place to stay.

“He’s got friends,” Fred Vigue said.

Rodney Vigue, who had the house built five years ago, at times became emotional surveying the damage on Friday.

“It went so fast,” he said.

Craig Crosby–621-5642

[email protected]

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