WATERVILLE — A mother and three children left homeless when their Oak Street home was destroyed by fire Tuesday have a new place to live.

And the best part is, it’s around the corner from the house they lost.

Tracey Bragdon, 44, said she learned a nearby duplex on May Street became vacant this week and she called the landlord, Lindsey Booker Burrill, to see if it was available.

“She said ‘yes,’ and I said ‘Thank you — I love you!'” Bragdon said Thursday.

Their new three-bedroom home is in the same neighborhood, so the children will have a sense of stability and a familiar support system, she said.

Bragdon’s daughter, Kaylynn Rice, 13, has a best friend who lives on the other side of the duplex, she said.

The family toured their new home for the first time Thursday afternoon, with the children laying claim to their bedrooms.

“I want the pink room,” Kaylynn said, after they climbed the stairs to the second floor.

“I love it,” she said, admiring the pink walls.

The boys, Keatin, 10, and Keon, 5, will share a room across the hall, their mother said.

The family’s 25 Oak St. home caught fire Tuesday morning, moments after they left the house and were walking down nearby Ticonic Street. It burned quickly, with neighbors and firefighters saying they couldn’t believe how rapidly it was engulfed.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office ruled the fire accidental, saying it was caused by improper disposal of cigarettes.

Bragdon said Thursday that she had slept in a spare bedroom on the first floor of the two-story house Monday night because Keatin had a friend over and the two boys stayed in her second-floor bedroom so they could watch DVDs on her television.

Tuesday morning, Bragdon was having a cigarette and cup of coffee in the first-floor bedroom when Keatin came in to see her, she said.

She said she learned from investigators that after she left the room, Keatin was on the bed and the family dog, Chaos, jumped from a chair to the bed and knocked her cup of coffee onto the floor and the ashtray into a trash can. The cup and ashtray were on a table between the bed and chair, she said.

Keatin would have had no way of knowing it would start a fire, so she does not blame him, she said.

“It was an accident,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bragdon said she is touched by the generosity of neighbors and others who gave her family clothes, food baskets and some money after the fire.

“I didn’t realize how many people liked me in my neighborhood,” she said. “They helped us a lot because we have nothing.”

The family plans to move into the duplex today, although they have nothing but the clothes people have given them. She said her home was insured and insurance company officials said they would give her money for short-term furniture rental, she said.

She said anyone who wants to donate furniture, dishes or other household items may contact her at 4 May St.

Burrill, her new landlord, said that when Bragdon called asking if the duplex was available, Burrill immediately knew who she was and about the fire.

“I called crew members off other projects and said, ‘She needs this place right now,'” Burrill said. “I talked to her (Bragdon) yesterday at probably 2 o’clock and it’ll be ready for her to move into before noon.”

Burrill said Bragdon was upset about losing her house and everything the family owned.

“I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now,” Burrill said. “She really seems wonderful and I’m just so glad I could help make things work.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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