JACKSON TOWNSHIP - A family of four was left homeless Thursday when fire destroyed a three-story residence and killed two dogs along Otto Station Road between Herndon and Dornsife.

Left homeless in the 5 p.m. blaze were Dale Rice, 42; his wife, Sara, 32, and their two children, Austin Romito, 13, and Emma Rice, 9, of 1104 Otto Station Road.

Flames were shooting out the back, side and front of the dwelling when firefighters arrived on scene. The fire was brought under control in about 30 minutes, but wasn't extinguished until 6:30 p.m.

Fire and emergency personnel from more than 10 communities battled the two-alarm blaze in a wooded area about a half mile from Grively Hill Road in this Northumberland County township.

Fortunately, members of the Rice family were together at a laundromat in Trevorton when the fire occurred. But two of their three dogs were found dead inside the home. Three cats are believed to have escaped injury.

At laundromat

"We got a phone call from my daughter's friend that our house was on fire while we were doing laundry in Trevorton," commented Dale Rice. "It's fortunate nobody was home."

An initial report broadcast by Northumberland County Communications Center indicated a 9-year-old child was unaccounted for and may have been trapped in the burning structure, but that report proved to be erroneous.

Breaker kicked twice

Rice said his family, who have lived in the home for about four years, doesn't have renter's insurance. Bob Wolfe, 65, of Dornsife, who has owned the house for five years, is insured.

Wolfe said a neighbor, Cynthia Witmer, contacted him about the fire. "It looks like the fire may have started in the kitchen area, but that hasn't been confirmed," Wolfe said. "The important thing is nobody got hurt. That was my main concern. Everything else can be replaced."

A very distraught Sara Rice said, "A breaker kicked twice in the kitchen in the morning within minutes, but I didn't think anything of it. My son went downstairs and flipped the breaker back on and power was restored."

She asked everyone to keep her family in their prayers as they deal with the horror of losing their home.

Herndon Assistant Fire Chief Ron Hinkley, who was in charge of firefighting efforts and was the first firefighter at the scene, stated, "We believe the fire may have originated in the rear near the kitchen because that entire area was engulfed in flames when I arrived. But we don't have a cause yet or an exact origin."

Hinkley said a state police fire marshal is expected to inspect the fire-ravaged building this morning.

Sara Rice said her family will be staying with her mother, Kimberly Schreiner, in Tower City.

Fire officials reported water pressure was not a problem in attacking the blaze from all angles. Multiple engines quickly arrived along the narrow, two-lane road leading to the home and a water pumping station was established at A&L Diesel at the intersection of Route 225 and the Herndon Bypass. Multiple tanker trucks transported water to the scene.

In addition to Herndon firefighters, fire and medical personnel from Dalmatia, Pillow, Trevorton, Sunbury, Hickory Corners, Lower Augusta Township, Klingerstown, Lower Mahanoy Township, Millersburg, Berrysburg and Hummels Wharf responded to the call.

The scene was cleared at 7:30 p.m.