BENNINGTON - Bennington Rural Fire Chief Sean Gardner said a cigarette was the likely cause of a fire in the upstairs of a home on Route 7 Tuesday afternoon.

Gardner said the Bennington Fire Department first responded to the 15 Route 7 home, across from the Park Lawn Cemetery, around 2:45 p.m. They encountered an involved structure fire, he said.

"When Bennington's first initial attack team went in and got upstairs the whole wall was on fire," Gardner said.

The Bennington Rural Fire Department was then called to respond to the home, which is in the rural fire district, Gardner said. Firefighters on scene worked to vent the home of smoke and ensure the flames did not flare up. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the flames.

According to Gardner, a resident of the home had been smoking in an upstairs room and left the house around 1:30. The fire was then called in by a passerby around 2:45 p.m., he said.

"We came to the conclusion that the couch upstairs is what started on fire. We're thinking that cigarettes were the cause of it," he said. "That would give it enough time for smoldering and, obviously, catching it on fire."

Gardner said about six people were living in the home. Casey Meyer, one of the residents, said eight cats also lived in the home. Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said at least one cat died in the fire.

Damage was contained to the upstairs, which has significant smoke and fire damage, Gardner said.

Officials said the American Red Cross was contacted to assist the home's residents.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami