PERU — A malfunctioning clothes dryer started a fire Tuesday morning that gutted a single-story cottage beside Route 108 just south of Greenwoods Road, Peru fire Chief Bill Hussey said.

There were no injuries.

He said the fire began sometime after Wanda Holmquist left for work after drying or warming some clothing in the laundry room of an attached porch. He said she had turned the dryer off before leaving the house at 1057 Auburn Road (Route 108).

People traveling past the house heading to work saw the fire and called 911 at about 5:05 a.m., Hussey said.

“When we arrived, there were flames coming from the dryer and washer room and there was smoke coming out the windows and eaves,” he said.

He called for mutual aid from Canton, Dixfield, Mexico and Rumford fire departments, as well as Med-Care Ambulance. He also called for a sanding truck from the Maine Department of Transportation.


“We had a good response from Peru and Dixfield, and Canton helped direct traffic,” Hussey said of the about 20 firefighters that responded.

Traffic was limited to one lane.

Firefighters quickly knocked down the fire with an exterior attack, then conducted an initial search to make sure no one was inside. Arriving responders has been told that someone was inside the burning building.

Hussey said firefighters entered the building to root out hot spots and check for fire extension in the ceiling and walls.

“We had to pull ceilings and walls down to make sure it didn’t extend into them,” he said.

Hussey said the electrical fire had been burning for about 30 minutes before it was spotted.


He credited early detection for saving the shell of the building.

“The structure is sound, but the damage inside is from heat and smoke,” Hussey said.

When searching for a cause, he said firefighters checked the lint trap in the dryer, but it was fine.

“That was the first place we looked,” he said.

Holmquist was renting the cottage from her brother, Bruce Holmquist, who had insurance on the building, Hussey said. But Hussey said he didn’t know if Wanda Holmquist — who lost everything — had renter’s insurance.

The house is assessed at $9,900, according to Town Office records.

Wanda Holmquist said she would stay with family members nearby, Hussey said.

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