WATERVILLE — A fast-moving fire tore through an Oak Street house Tuesday morning, destroying the house and leaving a  family of four homeless.
Tracey Bragdon, 44, had just left her house with her three children and was walking down nearby Ticonic Street when her next-door neighbor, Steve Nye, chased them down the street to say their 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 later that he called 911 immediately when he realized the two-story house was on fire.
“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 Oak Street, which is off College Avenue, but the 10-room house already was engulfed in flames, according to Fire Chief David LaFountain.
LaFountain said at the scene that investigators from the state Fire Marshal’s Office were on their way to help determine the cause of the fire, reported at 9:01 a.m..
“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.”
Donald Zaltzberg and Jim Trott were painting the outside of a house situated diagonally across the street from Bragdon’s 25 Oak St. home when the fire broke out.
Zaltzberg, 52, called 911, ran to the burning house and kicked at the front door, yelling to anyone who might be inside, he said.
He then ran to the side of the house and kicked  in the glass of a door there.
Bragdon’s one-year-old dog, Chaos, was inside, and Zaltzberg reached in to get the canine out.
“He tried to bite me,” Zaltzberg recalled. “He wasn’t happy.”
But the dog, a brown Australian shepherd- pit 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 praised firefighters for their quick response.
“The Fire Department got here, lickety-split,” he said. “They were here so fast.”
As firefighters worked at the scene and neighbors stood watching, friends consoled Bragdon, telling her they would help her and her family. Her dog, which someone had chained to a nearby house, barked incessantly at the goings-on.
When Bragdon learned Zaltzberg had saved  the canine, she went over and gave him a hug.
“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 about five years. She said it was insured, but she did not know exactly how much insurance she had.
LaFountain said firefighters from Waterville, Fairfield and Winslow were at the scene and Oakland firefighters stood by at the Waterville station.
LaFountain expected that more information would be available about the possible cause of the fire later in the afternoon.
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 in flames.
“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 workers 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.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
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