AUGUSTA — A young family was left homeless Tuesday when fire damaged their large, two-story house on Middle Street.

Homeowner Rory Strout, who shares the house at 53 Middle St., with his wife and two young children, watched in silence as firefighters cut into walls and ceilings of the neatly kept home, making sure the fire had not spread.

Strout’s thoughts turned to his children.

“All their toys are gone,” he said.

Nobody was home when the fire broke out, Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette said.

One firefighter was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center to be treated for heat exhaustion. He was released Tuesday afternoon, Audette said.

The fire caused an estimated $60,000 in smoke, water and fire damage. Strout said the home was insured.

He said he and his family would spend the next couple of nights at a local hotel before finding more permanent living arrangements, Audette said. The Red Cross is assisting the family.

Audette said an overloaded circuit in the kitchen sparked the fire around 10 a.m.

“When we got here, there was heavy fire on the first floor,” Audette said. “Thankfully, nobody was here.”

Firefighters responded from Togus veterans affairs hospital and several communities, including Chelsea, Gardiner, Hallowell and Winthrop.

Mutual aid firefighters as well as Delta and Winthrop ambulance crews handled a number of calls in Augusta, including a near head-on crash on Western Avenue, Audette said.

The Middle Street fire was knocked down in about 20 minutes but crews spent a significant amount of time checking for hot spots inside walls and ceilings.

“There’s quite a bit of damage,” Audette said.

But Audette said it would have been much worse had a neighbor failed to spot the smoke and fire early shortly after it started.

That neighbor, Paul Soule, has lived next door to the Strouts for a few years.

“I came out on my deck and heard a beeping noise and saw smoke,” Soule said. “When I investigated, I saw the house was on fire.”

Strout said he and his wife moved into the house about seven years ago. The couple has two children, ages 7 months and 3.

“My refrigerator just quit the other day and I had a repair guy come and fix it,” Strout said before learning what caused the fire. “I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.”

Firefighters were still working on his house as Strout tried to formulate a plan to take care of his family.

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” he said quietly. “I don’t know what to do now. Where’s my family going to sleep tonight?”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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