LEE, Maine – Investigators could not determine what caused a fire that destroyed a log cabin earlier this week, but the homeowner said Wednesday it might have been accidentally started by a cigarette.
Investigators who visited the Maxwell Road home of Jeff Sproul on Monday, the day of the fire, will log the blaze’s cause as undetermined because of the extensive damage, said Sgt. Tim York.
“I have been having trouble sleeping. I had been up for three or four days. I laid down to take a nap that afternoon. Don’t know if I left a cigarette going,” Sproul said Wednesday.
When he awoke on Monday, he saw flames burning into the ceiling and at least one wall. He said Wednesday that he crawled out of the house and freed his dogs, Georgia Peach and Wachia, from their pen to get them out of harm’s way.
He was in the woods trying to catch one of them when firefighters first arrived, Sproul said. They were called when the first witness to report it, Lee Rescue Chief Aaron Knowles, saw black smoke while driving north on Skunk Hill Road toward Route 6 at about 1:40 p.m.
When the first firefighters arrived minutes later, the 1½-story wood structure had already begun falling apart, Fire Chief Jay Crocker has said. The log cabin, which was destroyed, was uninsured, Sproul said.
A total of 4,925 fires were reported in Maine in 2013, the last full year for which statewide statistics are available. Of those, 19 were logged as caused by burning cigarettes, according to the fire marshal’s office on Wednesday. Twenty-eight fires caused by cigarettes were reported in 2012; 31 occurred in 2011.
Sproul was treated at Penobscot Valley Hospital of Lincoln for smoke inhalation and released. He came home to find ashes and other remains where his home of 17 years had been. The 52-year-old said he is staying in a trailer on a neighbor’s property but hopes to move the trailer to his land eventually.