BROOKSVILLE — As Dakota Tobery walked back from the Shop 'n Save on Thursday evening, some neighborhood kids ran toward him.
The home Tobery shares with his girlfriend and her three children was on fire, the kids said.
Tobery started running.
"By the time I got here, it was engulfed," Tobery said Friday morning as he and girlfriend Ann Lee searched for possessions to salvage from the blackened shell at 20106 Wildwood Drive, on the northwest side of Brooksville.
Fire crews arrived about 7 p.m. to find the front half of the home ablaze, said Frank DeFrancesco, assistant chief for Hernando County Fire Rescue. No one was home at the time, and there were no injuries.
Built in 1969, the home is a hybrid of sorts, with block walls built around a mobile home covered by a second roof. That created a challenge in battling the blaze, DeFrancesco said.
"In between the roofs is a major void, and it was hard to get to and find the fire," he said.
The Brooksville Fire Department helped bring the fire under control in about 45 minutes, dispatch records show. Crews were back at the house Friday morning when a smoldering area in the ceiling reignited.
The state fire marshal is investigating, but the source of the fire appears to be electrical, DeFrancesco said. The home was valued at about $24,000, county property records show.
Lee was at work when she got the call that her house was on fire.
"I just was worried about my kids and my animals," she said.
The children were with Tobery, but the family dog and two guinea pigs perished.
"Everything is gone," Lee said.
First Baptist Church of Brooksville covered the cost of a hotel room Thursday night. The church is working to get clothes, food and other necessities for the family, said Pastor Matt Ellis. The Red Cross also is helping.
"Hopefully not only our church but the community will rally around and kind of help them out in this time," Ellis said.
Tony Marrero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.