ROXBURY — Three residents escaped harm after two passersby alerted them that their house was on fire Saturday afternoon.

Mexico Fire Chief Richard Jones said Monday that Jim Arsenault and his wife, Connie Brann Arsenault, were traveling on Route 17 when they spotted the porch fire at 921 Roxbury Road.

“They turned around and came back,” Jones said. “She actually called 911. He went up and beat on the door to get their attention and get them out.”

He said there were three people in the building, homeowner Heather Clark, her father and her daughter.

Clark wrote in a Facebook post, “a huge thank you to the good Samaritans who called 911 and told us our house was on fire. We were inside and had no idea there was a fire. It would have been so much worse without them!”

She said everyone got out safely, and two of three kittens in the house were accounted for.

Jones said that the third kitten was spotted Sunday and while fire officials met Monday with the Fire Marshal, the kitten was again located, picked up and is doing well.

He said the 12:30 p.m. fire started on the porch, burned up through one of the columns and from there, took off to the roof line right up into the attic. “It was an open porch with a ceiling to it that was pretty much cooking with black smoke by the time firefighters arrived on the scene. It had already gotten up into the attic.”

Jones said “it was a weekend, everyone was gone,” so more than 50 firefighters from Mexico, Rumford, Dixfield, Peru, Roxbury, Andover, Canton, Jay and Rangeley were called to respond, with East Dixfield asked to provide coverage for Dixfield fire.

Jones said it was a hot and humid day so firefighters needed to hydrate. One firefighter was transported to Rumford Hospital to be treated for heat stroke.

“It was a stubborn fire. Being up in the attic area, metal roof, we couldn’t vent out like we really wanted to. It was a good job, well done by all,” Jones said, adding that firefighters were at the scene as long as five hours.

Jones said the Fire Marshal ruled that the fire was accidental. It began in a plastic container near one of the columns. He said the container had planting soil in it and was being used as a cigarette butt can. “Potting soil is not good to be used in a butt can because it’s organic. It oxidizes, which helps stuff to burn.”

He said the damage was extensive to the upstairs portion of the home. “It will need a new roof and there is water damage downstairs.”

The home was insured and Jones said, “I believe they’re going to try to fix it up.”

The chief said Clark told him she hopes to get a trailer behind the house for the time being while it is repaired.

Jones said the American Red Cross was contacted and “Service Master was up there before we even left.”

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