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The house where U.S. author Cormac McCarthy grew up has been destroyed by a fire.

The blaze was discovered by neighbours Tuesday, and firefighters found flames shooting from the upper floor of the house, according to The Knoxville News-Sentinel.

The house was abandoned and had been included on a list of endangered places by the non-profit preservation group Knox Heritage.

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"We have lost a literary landmark," Kim Trent, executive director of Knox Heritage, said yesterday, a day after the two-storey wood-frame structure was reduced to a smouldering ruin.

It was a blow for a city that also failed to save the early homes of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer James Agee and poet Nikki Giovanni.

"When something like this happens, it puts a sense of urgency" into preservation efforts, Trent said. "All it takes is somebody with a match and it is gone forever."

Investigators haven't determined the cause of the fire. Officials said there have been reports of homeless people on the property, but no one was in the building when firefighters arrived.

McCarthy, who was born in Rhode Island in 1933, came to Knoxville at age four when his father became a lawyer for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The McCarthys and their six children moved into the 10-room, two-bath home at 5501 Martin Mill Pike in 1941 and lived there for many years. McCarthy now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.

McCarthy won a Pulitzer for his 2007 novel The Road. His other works include All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men.

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