NORWAY – Fire engulfed an old farmhouse, ell and barn at 75 Holt Road on Tuesday afternoon, evoking tears from a neighbor who watched firefighters douse the flames.

Norway Fire Chief Michael Mann said the blaze at the home of Kurt Staples and Nancy Laughton and their two children is under investigation to determine a cause.

“We don’t think it’s suspicious,” he said, but a preliminary look points to a furnace or fuse box as possibilities.

An investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office is expected to visit the scene within the next few days, Mann said by cell phone as he drove from the scene at 8:25 p.m.

No one was home when the fire was reported by a neighbor at 2:39 p.m.

Neighbor Carol Marshall said she spoke to the family on a cell phone as she stood in their snowy yard surveying the scene.

“I just talked with them,” she said. “They were picking up the kids from school. I said, Don’t bring the kids home.'”

Neighbors said there may have been a couple of cats living at the house, and they pointed to a dog tied up outside watching the activity a safe distance away.

The fire started in the front entryway/living room area, Mann said. “There’s a furnace under the floor there, and there’s a fuse box nearby” so those two things will be examined.

The fire quickly burned walls and lit up the inside of the house, and sent thick smoke billowing above the trees.

The 1-story farmhouse with an attached ell and barn was estimated to be about 175 years old and was owned by Laughton’s father, who lives in Damariscotta, Mann said. Flames gutted the entire structure, leaving it a total loss, he added.

It was unknown if Laughton had insurance, but Mann estimated the cost to replace the set of buildings at a minimum of $200,000.

The fire scene is about a mile from Route 118, and is accessed via Wiley Road to Holt Road. The narrow road to the house made it hard for firetrucks to maneuver.

At least 50 firefighters from Norway, Waterford, Oxford and Paris used tankers to haul water from a dry hydrant on Town Farm Road farther west on Route 118. The hydrant supplies water from nearby Crooked River, and trucks shuttled the water to holding tanks about a half-mile from the burning home. From there it was pumped through a hose to the scene.

Firefighters from Hebron, West Paris and Mechanic Falls filled in at stations whose crews were working at the scene.

Central Maine Power Co. was called to disconnect electrical service to the farm.

Mann said he did not know where the family is staying.

Staff Editor Mary Delamater contributed to this report.

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