A family of five — three who lived at at 681 Webber Hill Road in Kennebunk, and two family members visiting from out-of-town for an early Christmas celebration — woke up to fire the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 19. All were able to get out safely, but the home appears to be a total loss. (Tammy Wells photo)

KENNEBUNK — Fire investigators believe they have traced the origin of the fire that consumed a Webber Hill Road home in Kennebunk early Wednesday, but the damage to the split-level home was so great the definitive cause cannot be determined.

Investigators said it appears the fire started in the area of the utility room in the basement of the home that housed both a hot water heater and an auxiliary heater, Kennebunk Fire Chief Jeff Rowe said. But, he said there was so much  damage, with parts of the first floor collapsing into the basement, that an exact cause could not be found. Investigators did determine that the fire was accidental, he said, with no human element involved.

No one was injured in the fire, which was reported when a 19-year old sleeping in a basement bedroom awoke at 4:39 a.m. Wednesday to smoke and alerted four family members sleeping on the first floor that the house was ablaze.

Had the young woman not been awakened, the outcome might have been very different, said Rowe at the scene on Wednesday morning.

The family, Carl and Barbara Morin and their daughter, Charli, had moved into the home about six weeks ago, after their former rental was sold, Rowe said.

They had been joined on Tuesday by two other family members from out of town who had come to stay for an early Christmas celebration. The group had opened Christmas gifts Tuesday night and then went to sleep.

By 10 a.m. Thursday, an online fundraiser for the family had raised about $5,700.

Dana Weeman, the owner of the home, said the home was built in 1978. Both the homeowner and the renters had insurance, according to Rowe.

There was heavy fire showing from both the front and rear of the house when firefighters arrived at the scene, Rowe said.

Firefighters from 10 departments responded to the fire, ferrying tankers with water from a hydrant about 1 ½ miles away over the Sanford city line.

The barn, full of dry hay and in a field away from the house, was saved.

Two of the family dogs were brought to safety, but two other dogs and a cat remain missing.

Rowe said heavy equipment was brought in on Wednesday to demolish the building so firefighters could finish extinguishing the blaze.

The family is said to be staying with relatives. The American Red Cross of Maine is assisting.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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