Ryan Kennedy and his family sifted through debris Friday morning, hoping to salvage a few belongings after a Thursday night fire destroyed their home at 1046 Lozier Lane in Medford.
"I'm losing everything," said Kennedy, 25, as he surveyed the charred interior of the two-story house, built in 1940.
His shih tzu, Layla, ran away during the commotion and was still missing, he said. "All I can hope is she's not in there," Kennedy said, looking toward the charred house.
Fire investigators searched for a cause of the fire, which started after 7 p.m. on a back patio. They determined that human carelessness caused the fire, but they said they wanted to continue their investigation before releasing more information.
Preliminary damage estimates are $200,000 for the house and $40,000 for the contents, firefighters said.
John Patterson, a fire investigator for the Medford Fire Department, said no one was hurt, but the house was a total loss. He said the old wooden building had lots of nooks and crannies that firefighters had to open to make sure everything was doused during the intense heat of the blaze.
"It was boiling," Patterson said.
Kennedy said he was watching a basketball game on TV when he noticed smoke and flames on his back porch.
He raced out of the house, then went around the front to help his disabled aunt, Vickie Duffield, 46, flee from her bedroom.
By the time he entered her room, the fire was everywhere, he said.
"There were flames above my head," he said. "It spread so fast."
Duffield said she didn't realize there was a fire until Kennedy opened the door and smoke billowed in.
"There were flames going everywhere," she said.
Kennedy said his only thought was to get his aunt to safety as quickly as possible.
"I just grabbed her and pulled her out," Kennedy said.
Duffield, Kennedy, and his friend, Mike Bristow, 22, of Medford, all escaped injury.
"We're all safe," he said. "We're all good — just bewildered."
Duffield went back into the house Friday and found one room relatively untouched by the blaze, where she retrieved some of her belongings. Outside, her car was untouched by the fire.
Kennedy's parents, Robert Poli, 49, and his wife, Susan, 47, were still at work when the fire engulfed their home. Their son called them to tell them about the fire.
Surveying the damage, Robert Poli said, "I don't think there's going to be much left."
After a little rummaging, he walked out of the house with a stack of documents, including passports that were slightly singed, but still readable. The family found several rooms had actually been spared by the fire.
Poli said he had obtained renter's insurance four months ago, which will provide a temporary place to stay while he looks for a new home to rent.
Close friends of the family, Mike and Robin Porter, brought toothbrushes, deodorant, clothes and other personal items.
"It's just weird to see some place you've been to a lot change so much," Mike Porter said.
His wife looked through one of the broken windows into a room darkened by charred debris, trying to make sense of all the things that were once so familiar.
"My father slid down those stairs playing around," she said. "We used to have Bible studies in the living room, and I sat on that couch."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.