The small wood frame home at 1612 Amherst St. was engulfed in flames by the time Brunswick firefighters arrived in the dark morning hours Monday, but they were more concerned about the fate of its occupants, Brunswick Deputy Fire Chief John Tyre said.
Initially, neighbors told police and firefighters the woman and man who lived there with their dog may have been trapped inside the burning structure.
After sifting thoroughly through the smoldering remains, firefighters were relieved to learn the residents and their pet were not inside when flames consumed the residence, Tyre said.
The woman and the dog were later located at The Well homeless day shelter on Gloucester Street. The man had left the residence before the fire started, Tyre said.
A cigarette left burning in an ashtray caused the 3:45 a.m. fire, Tyre said.
“It was fully involved when we got there, flames coming through the roof and out of every window,” Tyre said.
Firefighters brought the flames under control within 10 minutes of arrival, Tyre said.
Afterward came the grim search for signs that someone had been trapped inside, he said.
“After a primary search, a secondary search and a third search, we couldn’t find anything,” Tyre said.
Later, Brunswick fire officials talked to the woman at The Well, he said. She told firefighters the man had left the home a half hour before the fire started.
Thick smoke startled and awakened her after the dog knocked over a full ashtray.
She threw water on it, to no avail. Beating it with a towel only fanned the flames.
“She was beginning to be overcome with heat and smoke and she panicked and left,” Tyre said.
Neighbors noticed the smoke and flames and called the fire department, unaware the occupants had left the home, he said.
Shelter was found for the couple, who were renting the residence.
Monday’s fire marked the second time this month flames destroyed a residence in Brunswick. A kitchen fire quickly spread throughout a two-story wood-framed home at 412 Albany St. before noon Feb. 2, according to the fire department.
City firefighters were on the scene within four minutes of the 11:28 a.m. report of a fire. Firefighters battled the blazes for 5 1/2 hours before bringing it under control, according to a report.
The fire, caused by an unattended stove, caused $100,000 damage to the home and $5,000 in damage to the contents inside, reports state.
No one was injured in the fire.