RANGELEY — A three-alarm fire that destroyed a Rangeley home early Thursday was caused by improperly discarded fireplace ashes, Rangeley Fire Chief Tim Pellerin said.

Homeowners Robert and Carol Hunt escaped the blaze at 72 Skyland Drive with a couple of dogs, but lost a cat, the chief said.

The ashes apparently were left on the deck of the log home, which has a breezeway and a three-car garage, he said.

“This is the third or fourth fire we’ve had due to improperly discarded ashes,” he said, reminding people to put ashes in a covered metal container and put the container away from any structures, not on a porch or deck.

Pellerin estimated damage to the structures at $450,000, and personal property loss at $150,000. Hunt does tile work and his tools and equipment were in the garage.

A little after 3 a.m., Carol Hunt told Pellerin she heard a noise like glass breaking and went downstairs to check. A fire on the front porch was already coming into the house through a window.

She called her husband, and the couple got out through the garage with the fire following them, Pellerin said.

By the time firefighters arrived, the entire house was in flames.

With temperatures as low as 10 below zero, firefighters struggled to keep water flowing through their hoses. They had to truck water about five miles to the home and hoses were freezing into the ground, Pellerin said. About 50 firefighters responded to the blaze. Mutual aid came from Phillips, Eustis, Salem, Strong and Carrabassett Valley.

Skyland Drive is a dead end dirt road located off Loon Lake Road, not far from the Rangeley Lakes Regional School.

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