CORNVILLE — The house at 351 West Ridge Road once housed a general store and was also home to generations of the Quinn family.

By Friday morning, the two-story wood frame house was a blackened shell and three families were left homeless.

The early-morning fire in the three-apartment house was sparked by a burning candle, Cornville Fire Capt. Matthew Quinn said.

The former farmhouse at the corner of Huff Road about three miles north of Skowhegan is owned by his aunt and uncle and was once owned by his grandparents. His father grew up in it.

Quinn said the fire soon spread to the walls and the building quickly went up in flames.

“We were behind the eight ball from the beginning,” Quinn said from the scene Friday morning. “When I pulled up we had heavy fire coming out of the northwest corner window. It was already starting to extend into the rest of the house.”

The fire was reported just before 1:30 a.m. Friday and fire crews from several towns responded.

Scott Lessard, who lives in the apartment house with Hillary Barney and their two children, said the fire started accidentally in his father’s room.

“My father was staying the night because he was going to babysit in the morning for us,” Lessard, 28, said. “He was staying in that front bedroom and he was laying there watching a movie and when he got up, a pillow that was folded in half unfolded and it hit the candle.”

The pillow caught on fire and flames quickly spread to the bed and mattress. Lessard said he tried to pour water on the fire “then all of a sudden it hit the walls – it’s an old house.”

Barney called 911 as Lessard attempted to douse the flames with water. Lessard said his father had second-degree burns on his arm and was treated in an ambulance at the scene. All their belongings were destroyed.

Besides Lessard, Barney, 24, and their children, Autumn, 3, and Jaxon, 2, and Lessard’s father, Quinn said that three other people were in the apartment house when the fire started. Three dogs and at least two cats were also in the building. All but one cat are accounted for.

The American Red Cross is helping the families find a place to stay. He said he didn’t have all the names of the people who were displaced by the fire.

A Pontiac Grand Am that was parked next to the house also was destroyed.

Cornville, Skowhegan and Athens fire crews responded initially to the fire, followed by East Madison, Canaan and Norridgewock. Fairfield fire units covered the Skowhegan station, according to Quinn. He said fire crews remained on the scene for about six hours.

The apartment house is owned by Lynda and Tommy Quinn of Skowhegan. Lynda Quinn is a current member of the School Administrative District 54 school board and a former selectwoman and Somerset County commissioner.

Matthew Quinn said the building was insured, but he is not sure if the tenants had renter’s insurance for their belongings.

He said his father, Jeffrey Quinn, grew up in the house.

The building once was the Cornville General Store, which closed in the mid-1950s and later was converted into apartments.

The two apartments in the main building were gutted by the fire. A third apartment and garage in an attached former grain shed for the general store is salvageable, but it could be a couple of weeks before it can be occupied, Quinn said.

Contacted Friday afternoon, Lynda Quinn, said she and her husband do not plan on rebuilding the burned-out section of the house. She said they will repair the third unit.