A rural home outside Ukiah was destroyed by fire possibly caused by combustible materials stored to close to a fireplace, Ukiah Valley fire officials said.

The owner of the house off Deghi Lane, north of town and west of Lake Mendocino, had been cleaning and clearing out belongings in preparation for a rummage sale when she left home for a spell on Thursday evening and a short time later heard from a neighbor that her house was burning, fire Capt. Justin Buckingham said.

The 8 p.m. fire was reported by passersby on Highway 101 who could see something burning from the freeway, but they weren't sure where or what it was, Ukiah Valley Fire Capt. John Strangio said.

Fire crews responding could see that the structure was fully engulfed before they even got there, the captains said. The narrow, single-track driveway and the need to use water tenders to shuttle water to the scene impeded fire suppression efforts, Buckingham said.

Fire crews were on the scene until about 4 a.m. Strangio said.

The damage to the single-story house was too extensive to pinpoint the cause with certainty, but it appeared to have started in the area of the fireplace, which had been in use during the day, Buckingham said.

Homeowner Brenda Hodges also explained that she had left piles of belongings nearby, he said.

Hodges did not have fire insurance, so the loss was total, Buckingham said.

Buckingham reminded homeowners to ensure there is enough clearance between combustible materials and heat and fire sources. He said the chimney also had not been cleaned recently, though it was unclear if that might have contributed to the fire.