ANDOVER – A 158-year-old farmhouse was destroyed by fire Wednesday despite the efforts of more than 30 firefighters from four area towns.

Larry and Carol Yates owned the 1½-story white house at 126 Upton Road and had lived in it for about 30 years, according to fire Chief Ken Dixon and Deputy Chief Elaine Morton.

Larry Yates was at work at the NewPage paper mill in Rumford. His wife and a son had gone into town a quarter mile away and returned about 11:45 a.m. to find fire and smoke inside. There were no injuries.

Dixon said the couple had no insurance on the building, which was valued at nearly $45,000, according to town records. The Yates, who formerly ran an antiques store on Extension Street in Rumford, also had antiques and scrimshaw inside the house that were destroyed.

Dixon attributed the cause to a chimney fire, even though the chimney was only seven years old.

“Sparks from the chimney came back down through the roof,” he said. “I spoke with his wife and she said it was a chimney fire that broke out in the attic. When she found it, she saw fire that dropped out of the ceiling and fell on the floor.”

Besides Andover, responding departments included Mexico, Rumford and Roxbury, along with Med-Care Ambulance, and Oxford County Sheriff Sgt. Timothy Holland.

Morton, who arrived first with two other Andover firefighters, said that fire was ripping out through the side of the house and there was a lot of smoke. A large plume was visible from miles away, Mexico fire Chief Gary Wentzell said.

Heat from the fire was so intense that firetrucks couldn’t be parked nearby. It also prevented firefighters from entering the house to attack the fire directly.

Heat scorched a front-yard tree that had to be doused with foam, and melted plastic on a car parked in front of it.

As firefighters fought the blaze and unsuccessfully tried to get at more fire buried under collapsed rubble in the basement, occasional small explosions could be heard. A propane canister on the front porch also exploded.

“It did vent, but the fire was impinging on it so much, that it couldn’t keep up with it,” Dixon said.

To get at the fire in the basement, Road Commissioner Marshall Meisner drove an excavator to the scene and lifted material out. By 12:30 p.m., it was mostly extinguished.

Dixon said the couple has a daughter nearby and found a place to stay. They had planned to remodel the house, but now gave Dixon permission to raze it. An adjacent barn will be dismantled.

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