OAKLAND — A house on Swan Hill Road was gutted by a fire Monday afternoon, leaving the couple who own it homeless and killing their three dogs.

Standing near her smoking home Monday afternoon, owner Carol Manson said she left the house less than half an hour before getting a call that it was on fire.

Distraught at the scene as her house burned, she said she was worried about her three dogs and a cat. She later learned the dogs hadn’t made it out of the house. The cat was later found to have escaped the fire.

The fire was reported at 15 Swan Hill Road around 2:15 p.m. Monday. Crews from Oakland and surrounding towns, including Waterville, Rome, Belgrade and Sidney, responded to the scene.

By 3 p.m., firefighters had the active fire out, but the house was still smoldering. Firefighters were examining the interior and cutting into the roof to get at remaining hotspots.

On Monday evening, Oakland Fire Chief Dave Coughlin said the cause of the fire is still unknown and the state fire marshals would be at the property Tuesday morning to investigate.


The focus of the blaze appeared to be the front porch and kitchen area. Firefighters extinguished the fire less than an hour after arriving on the scene, but spent the rest of the afternoon putting out stubborn smoldering areas in the roof and walls.

Manson, who lives at the two-story white farmhouse with her husband, Kip, said she had come home to change her clothes and let her dogs out before driving into Waterville to visit her grandson. She was in Waterville when she got the call and came racing back to check on her home, she said.

No injuries were reported in the fire, but Manson’s three dogs and a cat died.

Earlier, as firefighters still worked to put out the blaze, she said she feared the worst for her three dogs, two boxers and one boxer-lab mix, and the cat, who were in the house when the fire broke out.

Her father-in-law, who lives nearby, ran down to the house to try to get the pets out when the fire broke out, she said.

“If they were all right, they’d be out by now,” she said.


Coughlin later confirmed that the three dogs died in the fire.

Manson said she had recovered their bodies and the dogs would be buried in the backyard.

Manson said she had no idea how the fire started.

Neighbors on the street and nearby Kennedy Memorial Drive reported hearing explosions and seeing smoke from the house.

Richard Jurdak, who lives next door, said he saw smoke coming out of the porch and flickering flames in the second floor windows, then heard at least one big explosion. The fire picked up in intensity after the blast, he said.

Ron Pressey and Robin Cote, family friends of Manson, said they were at Waterville Custom Kitchens, about half a mile from the fire on Kennedy Memorial Drive, when they heard the blast.


“It was a huge explosion and a big black cloud,” Cote said.

The two knew the explosion happened near Manson’s house and drove down to find out what happened, they said.

Chief Coughlin said that the explosion was likely from firearm ammunition stored in the house. The propane and oil tanks in the house did not explode, he said. Family members were recovering firearms from the house Monday evening, and Manson said that they hoped to salvage what they could.

“We’re all safe, that’s what counts,” she said.

One of the Oakland firefighters has offered Manson and her family a trailer to stay in for the short term, she said.

The house was insured.


As firefighters tackled the stubborn smoldering fire, friends and family members turned up to surround Manson to give her comfort.

The house was bought by her grandfather in 1969 and she had lived there for 16 years, Manson said. She hugged her adopted son, Nate Bellevance, who was in tears about the loss of the house and their pets.

“Years of memories,” she said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.