FAIRFIELD — The fire that destroyed the home of an elderly woman and her son on New Year’s Eve is the latest example of the type of accident that is happening more often in the wake of extreme weather and widespread power outages, officials said Thursday.

The investigation into the cause of the fire isn’t finished, but all signs point to it being a chimney fire, authorities said.

Fire officials released the names of the mother and son who were left homeless when their farm house on Hutchins Road burned to the ground.

Viola Hutchins and Elmer Hutchins were out of the house by the time emergency responders from Fairfield Fire and Rescue arrived shortly before 10 p.m. on Tuesday, said Fire Chief Duane Bickford.

Bickford said 25 firefighters from eight towns responded to the fire and kept warm in the subzero temperatures by rotating into a heated school bus.

Bickford said he and a few other members of Fairfield’s fire department revisited the scene on Hutchins Road for about an hour Thursday afternoon, putting out lingering hot spots in the fire and trying to salvage items.

Attempts to reach the Hutchins family for comment were unsuccessful. Bickford said the mother and son were put up in a hotel for the night by the American Red Cross.

Sgt. Ken Grimes with the state Fire Marshal’s Office said the investigation was essentially complete.

“It appears as if the fire originated around the chimney area, and all indications at this time are that it’s accidental,” he said.

Grimes said the extreme cold and widespread power outages caused by last week’s ice storm appear to have led to house fires.

“People work their wood stoves and fireplaces harder at this time of year,” he said. “If there was going to be a problem, this is the kind of weather that would bring it out.”

Grimes said homeowners should be careful to follow safety precautions and maintain their chimneys and other heating systems.

“The older a chimney gets, the more maintenance it requires as far as proper interior tiles, repointing of the mortar, and checking and correcting broken bricks,” he said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

mhhetling@centralmaine.com