WATERVILLE — A fast-moving fire destroyed an Oak Street house Tuesday morning, leaving a family of four homeless.

Tracey Bragdon, 44, said she had just left her house with her three children and was walking down nearby Ticonic Street when her next-door neighbor, Steve Nye, chased her down the street to tell her the house was on fire.

“We weren’t even gone, like, two minutes and we flew back and the house was almost gone,” an emotional Bragdon said at the scene.

Nye said he called 911 at 9:01 a.m. when he realized the two-story house was burning.

“I was sitting on the front porch and saw smoke and went over and the flames just burst right through,” Nye said.

About 40 firefighters rushed to the house on Oak Street, which connects College Avenue and Main Street, but the 10-room house was already engulfed in flames, according to Fire Chief David LaFountain.

LaFountain said the state Fire Marshal’s Office will investigate the fire’s cause. Waterville Fire Capt. Michael Michaud said Tuesday evening that investigators were still at the scene trying to determine a cause and had more interviews to conduct.

“I haven’t been inside, but from the looks of things on the outside, I’d say it was gutted,” LaFountain said of the house. “There was a lot of fire. Crews coming out said there was fire in every room.”

When the fire broke out, Donald Zaltzberg and Jim Trott were painting the outside of a house diagonally across the street from Bragdon’s 25 Oak St. home. Zaltzberg, 52, said he called 911, ran to the burning house and kicked at the front door, yelling to anyone who might be inside.

He then ran to the side of the house and kicked in the glass of a door.

Bragdon’s 1-year-old dog, Chaos, was still inside and Zaltzberg reached in to get him out.

“He tried to bite me,” Zaltzberg recalled. “He wasn’t happy.”

But the dog, a brown Australian shepherd-bull terrier mix, scrambled out of the black billowing smoke at his command. “He came flying out. He was mad at me. I said, ‘Go lay down someplace,'” Zaltzberg said.

Zaltzberg praised firefighters for their quick response.

As firefighters worked at the scene and neighbors stood watching, friends consoled and embraced Bragdon, saying they would help her and her family.

When Bragdon learned Zaltzberg had saved her dog, she hugged him.

“Thank you very much,” she said, tearfully. “That’s the first thing I thought of when Steve said the house was on fire. I was screaming, ‘My dog, my dog — somebody get my dog.’ He’s a good, good, good dog.”

Bragdon said she and her children, Kaylynn, 13, Keatin, 10, and Keon, 5, had lived in the house for about five years. She said the house was insured.

LaFountain said firefighters from Waterville, Fairfield and Winslow were at the scene and Oakland firefighters stood by at the Waterville station.

Neighbors were stunned at how quickly the fire spread throughout the house.

Danny Ferreira, 50, and his daughter, Mackenzie, 9, of nearby Maple Street, said they heard fire trucks and walked to Oak Street, where the house was ablaze.

“It was bad,” Danny Ferreira said. “In less than five minutes it was burnt. That thing went up way too fast. By the time the firemen got here, that thing was engulfed.”

Like other neighbors, Ferreira said Bragdon is a doting mother who watches her children very closely.

“She’s real good to her kids,” he said. “Mothers don’t sit outside with their kids anymore. And every day, she is.”

Nye, who spotted the fire and called 911, stood on the street with his fiancee, Diana Foster. They both said Bragdon has been a good neighbor and a good mother who keeps tabs on her children.

“They’ve got to check in every 20 minutes or she’s out there,” Foster said.

Delta Ambulance responders checked on firefighters, who took turns taking breaks by lying or sitting on a lawn across the street.

Firefighter Robert Shay, a 28-year veteran firefighter, was on vacation Tuesday but stopped by when he learned of the fire.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a real worker like this,” he said of the fire.

Meanwhile, Bragdon, standing on the sidewalk with a friend, pointed to a tree on the lawn by her charred house across the street.

“That’s an apple tree my daughter got when she started school,” she said.

Two firefighters were treated for dehydration, with one treated at the scene and another taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer Campus, according to Michaud.

He said the fire was a tough one to fight.

“It was an older home and the fire got in between the walls and the floor, and it was difficult to track it down,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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