AUGUSTA — Fire gutted a Riverside Drive home Wednesday morning while the homeowners were gone, leaving its pets dead or missing.

Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office said the fire, which started in an elevated section of the kitchen, was likely sparked by an electrical malfunction.

The fire at 323 Riverside Drive was reported around 6:45 a.m. by Maine State Police Lt. Scott Ireland, who was on his way to work. He noticed smoke coming from the home and thought it was more than what would be caused by a wood stove.

“It was enough I figured I had to go back and take another look,” he said.

Ireland got out of his cruiser to take a look around and saw smoke coming from the eaves. He called dispatchers to call for firefighters.

Ireleand said there was no car in the driveway, but he was unsure if anyone was home. He kicked in the rear door and yelled, and there was no response.

“Fire was coming around the corner,” he said. “I had to get out.”

Firefighters arrived at the two-story cape-style house to find heavy flames coming from the back, but no one at home, according to Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette.

“There was heavy fire at the back side of the building and it got inside areas that are really tough to get out,” Audette said. It took about 90 minutes to get the fire under control, he said.

Audette said two dogs were killed in the blaze and two cats were missing.

The house, which is insured, is owned by Steve and Jessie Eastman, who share the home with their two children, ages 6 and 3.

Steve Eastman serves the Maine Army National Guard and was in Virginia, while Jessie Eastman had left the house Wednesday morning before the fire was reported. Jessie Eastman said the family of four has owned the home since 2010.

Steven Eastman was making his way home on Wednesday.

“This family lost everything this morning,” Audette said.

The Red Cross and National Guard are assisting the family. Jessie Eastman said they have family in the area with whom they can stay.

Firefighters from Augusta, Togus, Winthrop, Gardiner, Hallowell and Chelsea responded to the blaze.

Jessie Eastman said she had left for work with her two children around 6 a.m. There was nothing that indicated a fire was about to break out, she said, calling it a regular morning.

It was the second day in a row that Augusta firefighters started by responding to a fire. Crews on Tuesday rescued a man from a fire that damaged a Cedar Court apartment.

The tenant, 59-year-old David Malia, who lived in the second floor where the fire started, remained hospitalized in serious condition Wednesday at MaineGeneral Medical Center, where he was being treated for smoke inhalation, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Staff Writer Keith Edwards contributed to this report.

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