Taulton said no one was home when he arrived shortly before 11:40 a.m.
"I beat on the doors. I couldn't find anyone," he said. "There were no vehicles outside. You could just hear it roaring inside."
It took only minutes for the fire to destroy the first floor at 6307 Appletown Road. Oley Griffith, chief of the First Hose Co. of Boonsboro, said firefighters brought the fire under control in about 10 minutes. But by then the living room and kitchen had been reduced to charred rubble.
Griffith said the second floor sustained heavy smoke and heat damage.
A garage was saved, however.
Griffith said firefighters charged through the front door to attack the fire and knocked out side windows to battle the blaze from that direction. But he said they had to ventilate the home before they could move to the second floor.
The state Fire Marshal's Office determined the fire started when the masonry structure of the chimney failed, causing the structural components to ignite. The fire quickly spread throughout the house, according to the fire marshal's office.
Damage was estimated at $90,000.
The American Red Cross has offered assistance to Wallace and Joyce Holmes, who lived at the house.
About 25 firefighters from companies in Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Potomac Valley, Middletown, Md., and Brunswick, Md., responded to the blaze, along with the Washington County Air Unit and the Boonsboro volunteer rescue squad.