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Family of 6 homeless after fire in Atlantic Beach

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Updated: 11/29/2013 2:28 pm
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. -- A day after sharing Thanksgiving together, a family of six could be homeless.

Their house caught fire around 8:15 a.m. Friday with five of the six people, including three children, inside. All of them escaped the home with no injuries. Firefighters have not determined the cause of the fire, and the state Fire Marshal is now investigating.

Harry Francis was the only one in the family not at the house. He was working but told Action News his wife, daughter and three grandchildren were inside and that the fire started somehow underneath the home.

"We're alive, we're well, considering," he said. "We're just waiting to find out what the damage is and what we can save."

Thanks to the Francis' family's neighbor Don Hutchins many of their pets were saved. Francis said a few did not make it out of the home alive. Hutchins talked to Action News, describing how he fought the flames and smoke in the home to try to get the animals.

"(It was) pure black," said Hutchins. "Just black. You could see the door glowing and the floor glowing where the fire was coming through, and you could hear the animals screaming. You couldn't see 2 feet in front of your face. I was on the floor sucking carpet."

Hutchins said he saved five cats and two dogs, which he is now taking care of in his home. He says has minor burns on his hands, feet and his tongue is swollen. Action News asked him what he was thinking about when he risked his life to go inside for the pets.

"What my pastor would say to me if I didn't try. I'm from Oak harbor church, and I know they'd expect me to go in there and do what I had to do to help the animals or the people.

Francis said other neighbors, his church and his workplace are pulling together for the family to give them a better end to the holiday season. The Red Cross is also assisting the family.
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