OAKLAND — A fire at an Oak Street home Saturday night has left a family of nine without a roof over their heads and killed both of their family dogs.

Firefighters from Oakland and neighboring communities responded to the fire at 250 Oak St. at approximately 10:44 p.m. Saturday night.

Oakland Fire Chief Dave Coughlin said Sunday morning that the fire was severe, and the house “is not habitable at this point.”

Owners Betty and Jon Belanger were traveling out of state with their seven children, and there was no one home at the time of the fire, Coughlin said. The family, who has children ages 3 through 10, was in Connecticut for a family Christmas celebration.

Kathy Gray, a former neighbor who dog-sits for the family, said Roxie, a yellow lab, and Ruby, a black lab, were found dead in the house.

The fire appears to have originated in the kitchen, according to Coughlin. Investigators from the Office of Maine State Fire Marshal were going through the house Sunday morning to try to determine the cause of the fire.

Coughlin said 35 to 40 firefighters from Oakland, Waterville, Fairfield, Belgrade and Sidney responded to the fire. There was a vehicle parked in the driveway when they arrived, and firefighters conducted a search of the building to see if anyone was home, Coughlin said.

It took firefighters less than an hour to get the fire under control, and crews were on the scene for less than three hours, Coughlin said.

Ben Belanger, Jon’s brother, was at the home Sunday morning with friends and family members coordinating a place for the family to stay while they figure out a permanent place to live.

“There are plenty of places,” he said.

The Belangers have three biological children and took in four of Betty’s nieces and nephews through the foster care system, Belanger said. The family planned to be back in Oakland Sunday afternoon, he said.

Response to the news of the fire from the community was almost instantaneous.

By Sunday morning, friends had set up a Go Fund Me page and organized a Facebook campaign, Bringing Christmas Back to the Belangers.

The Red Barn in Augusta is hosting a benefit dinner on Wednesday to help the family.

People are being asked to donate clothing (used, but in good condition), toys and household items to help the family get back on their feet. Donations can be brought to the Williams and Atwood elementary schools in Oakland, according to the Facebook page.

“People are just going to overload them with clothing. They need beds, bedding, furniture, appliances, and they are going to need a home, because they have lost everything,” Gray said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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