Firefighters responded to a fire at 32/34 Rose St. in Bath Monday morning. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BATH — State fire marshal investigators say a fire that left five people homeless early Monday morning was accidental.

Sgt. Joel Davis said the fire at 32/34 Rose St. started on an outside first-floor porch on the rear of the building. The fire was most likely caused by the improper disposal of smoking material, such as cigarettes.

No charges will be filed, Davis said.

Fire spread through the back of the building quickly. Neighbor Eric Wilson said he heard two explosions and saw flames engulfing the back of the three-unit apartment minutes later.

Bath Fire Chief Lawrence Renaud couldn’t say exactly what caused the explosion Wilson heard. A propane tank was venting propane after heat from the fire triggered a pressure relief valve. That is a safety feature that prevents tanks from exploding.

Julie Rideout was getting ready for work at L.L. Bean. She started her car and went back upstairs to her apartment and into the kitchen. That’s when she smelled wood burning and opened a lower cabinet door. Smoke billowed out.

“I just started yelling ‘Fire! Fire!,’ stomping my feet,” she said between tears as she stood wrapped in pink blanket in Wilson’s yard.

“Everybody was in bed except me,” she said. “Thank God I had to work early.”

She woke her boyfriend before she ran downstairs to rouse the neighbor there. Her boyfriend ran upstairs to wake another neighbor.

“It felt like it took forever for (firefighters) to get everything set up and spraying,” she said.

She’d lived in the apartment for three years. She didn’t have renters insurance but is happy everyone is ok.

“I am just so grateful that I was awake,” she said.

The neighbors were amazing she said, bringing blankets, warm clothes and getting coffee for firefighters.

The American Red Cross of Maine is working with five people displaced in the fire to make sure they have food, clothes and a safe place to sleep, according to a press release. Two dogs and a cat also made it out of the home.

Red Cross spokeswoman Ann Kim declined to say if or how many of the displaced tenants have been given vouchers to stay in a hotel in order to protect their privacy.

Bath Deputy Fire Chief Chris Cummings said the building was heavily damaged. There is water damage and smoke damage throughout the building. Extensive renovations will be needed if the owner decides to repair the structure, he said.

According to the city’s online assessing records, the home was built in 1900. It is owned by D F Thurston Corp., of Bath and assessed at $130,000.

The home is located in the south end of Bath, just uphill from the South End Dog Park. Wilson said most of the homes in the neighborhood were built in the late 1800s.

“This apartment has been well-kept,” said Wilson, who has lived adjacent to the building that caught fire for 15 years. “The owners have kept on it. They’ve done a lot of renovations. They’ve done some updates.”

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