SACO — Hot ashes that were not properly disposed of led to a house fire in Saco that displaced four people living in a multi-unit residence on Wednesday.

According to Saco Deputy Fire Chief David Pendleton, neighbors across from 18 Therrien Ave. heard popping noises and saw smoke coming from the house about 4:03 p.m. Wednesday and called the fire department.

Arriving at the scene with two fire engines, a ladder truck, and an ambulance, Saco firefighters found nobody was at home and extinguished the fire.

“It appears that the homeowner removed ashes from a wood stove into a metal pail and then two days later dumped the pail into the garbage bin,” Pendleton said. “The bin was up against the house and the ashes were still hot and ignited a fire in the trash receptacle.”

He said the fire burned the trash bin and then a tarp used to cover firewood stored inside an alcove to the house and the house’s vinyl siding before it spread into the eaves of the house.

“It’s a three-unit building and it’s fortunate nobody was home at the time,” Pendleton said.

After calling the fire department, the neighbors kicked in doors to see if anyone was trapped inside and in need of assistance.

“They were able to rescue a dog from one of the units, but couldn’t find anyone else in there,” Pendleton said.

Ann Kim, Director of External Communications for the American Red Cross, Maine Region, said that the Red Cross is currently helping those displaced by the fire.

“Disaster responders from the American Red Cross of Maine were working with four people Wednesday to ensure that they have food, a safe place to sleep and other essentials following a multi-family home fire,” Kim said. “Over the next several days, the Red Cross will be in contact with them to provide financial assistance and community referrals as they begin to make their road to recovery.”

Pendleton said damage to the house was not extensive, however Central Maine Power shut off electricity to the residence until it can be inspected by an electrician and determined that the wiring is safe.

Firefighters were at the scene for about 2 1/2 hours Wednesday, and Pendleton said the investigation has been completed.

“This is probably a good time to remind everyone about the proper storage of ashes,” he said. “If you remove ashes, they need to go in a metal bucket and placed away from a home. Add water to them to make sure they are completely extinguished.”

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]