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Fire guts family's home and day care

A family lost its business and home Monday afternoon after a fire gutted the single-story house.

Dagmar Ortiz had left her home for about 40 minutes to pick up her daughter. When she returned to the home about 12:45 p.m., she saw smoke billowing from the house.

"When I came home, the house was burning," said Ortiz, who runs a day care out of the home at 1365 S Greenwood Ave.

She left two of her children, and other kids she was watching, in the car and went inside. She grabbed a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but it was hot and it burned her hand.

The fire was raging out of control.

"I realized I could do nothing with a simple extinguisher," she said.

Shawn Williams was walking to the bus stop when he saw smoke pluming from the home. As electric wires popped above him, Williams and another bystander knocked on the windows and doors to ensure everyone was out. They grabbed a dog in the back yard that was trying to get inside the burning home.

"It got pretty nasty pretty quick," Williams said. "Two of the electric lines dropped down."

Firefighters were on the scene within five minutes and brought the fire under control 15 minutes later, said acting District Chief Shawn Tellone.

Ortiz said she did two things that fire officials consider big no-nos: She left a portable heater running in her living room and food cooking on low in her kitchen when she left. She also had fireworks, which ignited as fire crews fought the blaze.

The fire remained under investigation late Monday. Fire officials said the house was gutted.

The American Red Cross was summoned to the scene. The fire left Ortiz, her husband and their three young children without a home. Her children are 10, 5 and 3, she said.

Ortiz suffered a small burn to her hand from where she grabbed the fire extinguisher. None of the children were hurt. The family's Labrador-dalmatian mix, Sparky, also made it out safely.

Ortiz said the house is insured, but her oldest child, 10-year-old Melissa Alejandre-Mar, was worried about the personal possessions the family lost.

"All of our stuff," she said. "My bed, our furniture and our clothes."