Improperly disposed wood stove ashes are blamed for a New Year’s Day fire near Rangeley that destroyed a three-story vacation home, fire officials said.

“The good news is nobody died,” said Rangeley Fire Chief Tim Pellerin. “The bad news is that this all could have been prevented.”

The fire on Old Country Road fire in Dallas Plantation was called in just after 2 p.m. New Year’s Day by a caller who reported seeing smoke from a distance. Fire crews arrived five minutes later to find the three story vacation home fully engulfed in flames, said Pellerin.

“It was destroyed. Flames were coming out of the windows,” he said.

The remote road had no hydrants and Pellerin said the 20,000 gallons of water used fighting the fire had to be trucked in from a distance. He said firefighters could not save the home and focused on extinguishing the fire and preventing it from spreading.

Owners Mike and Barbara Ryan, of Plainville, Mass., were away, but their relative who was staying at the home is believed to have put out ashes that had not cooled yet in a non-metal container near the house. They were stoked by the wind and the ensuing fire lit the house. The relative was not home at the time and there were no injuries in the fire.

About 30 firefighters from Phillips, Eustis and Rangeley had the fire under control in less than an hour and extinguished it in another four hours.

Pellerin said the house and the personal property inside is estimated to be valued at $550,000. The home was insured, he said.

Pellerin said homeowners should remember to dispose of ashes in a metal container with a lid away from the house. He said ashes can stay hot enough to ignite for up to 10 days after they are disposed of and need to be kept away from structures and combustibles.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

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