State fire officials are investigating the cause of a fire early Saturday that destroyed an abandoned house at 570 North Ave. in Skowhegan, on property where police earlier this year searched for Tina Stadig, a woman missing for more than a year.

Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office were called to the fire, reported by a passer-by at 5:15 a.m., to help determine the cause and point of origin, according to Skowhegan fire Chief Shawn Howard.

A call to Sgt. Scott Richardson, of the fire marshal’s office was not returned by early afternoon Saturday, but Howard indicated a person might have been involved in the fire.

“Obviously, with no heat sources, no electricity, what that leaves is a human element to the fire,” he said. “Whether that was accidental or done on purpose, that’s what we’re not sure of right now. Certainly, we would suspect that there was a human element.”

Contacted Saturday morning, Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam said Skowhegan and state police searched the building and property for Stadig in June but did not find anything. He said he doesn’t think there was any connection to Stadig’s disappearance and the fire Saturday morning.

“Do I think there’s any relevance as to the fire and her? Most likely not,” Bucknam said. “We did a very thorough search in that area and didn’t come across anything. The building burning, at this point, would not really be relevant to Tina’s disappearance.”

Bucknam said that in June, he and Skowhegan’s criminal investigation division, as well as the State Police Major Crimes Unit, searched there, did some digging with some heavy equipment and used cadaver dogs.

“We didn’t find anything,” he said. “We did a pretty thorough search up there and weren’t able to find any evidence that Tina is in the area, if she’s deceased.”

Stadig, 40, was last seen May 28, 2017, in Skowhegan. She was reported as a missing person on July 4, 2017, and a Skowhegan police detective took up the case.

Donna Almeida said in a message to the Morning Sentinel at the time that Stadig is her daughter and suffers from mental illness.

Bucknam said Saturday that police continue to investigate her disappearance and anyone with information that may lead to her whereabouts is asked to contact Detective Michael Batchelder at [email protected] or call the Police Department at 474-6908.

“We still have our phones and our emails open,” he said.

Howard, the fire chief, said Saturday that around 20 firefighters from Skowhegan, Canaan, Athens, Madison, Norridgewock and Cornville responded to the fire, as it occurred outside the hydrant district and water had to be hauled in by tanker trucks. Firefighters got the fire under control fairly quickly, he said.

“It was not particularly large fire but it was well involved when units arrived,” Howard said.

North Avenue also is known as Route 150. The site of the fire is near Hilton Hill Road, which also is off Route 150.

Howard said the wood-frame house, built about 1900, was too dangerous to send firefighters inside, so they had to fight the blaze from outside.

Most of the floor of the house had been removed previously and the building was used for storage of wood, bags of clothes and other items, he said.

The house was owned by Patricia Irwin, whose son, Wade Irwin, lives in another building on the property, according to officials.

An excavator was used to clean up debris from the fire site, Howard said. Firefighters left the scene around 10:30 a.m. and no one was injured, according to Howard.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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