MILFORD - Jasen and Lorrie McDowell of Milford, along with their children, Monishia, 15, Bobby, 13, and Zachary, 11, lost almost all of their possessions when their house was destroyed by fire Monday.

“When Mom picked me up at school Monday afternoon, she was crying and, when I asked her what happened, she told me that our house had burned,” said Monishia, a varsity cheerleader for Italy High School. “I said,‘You’re kidding, aren’t you? It didn’t really happen.’ ”

The McDowells said the fire, which may have started in the kitchen area, was discovered shortly after noon and quickly spread through the remainder of the house, with the center of the roof collapsing onto the charred remains. The fire inspector was unable to determine a cause or point of origin, they said.

The family initially believed a 7-week-old red Labrador mix puppy they had gotten the Saturday before the fire had perished.

“After the fire had been put out, we heard a whimper which sounded like it was coming from under the house - and it wasn’t long until Coco came walking out from under the house,” Bobby said. “We believe he was under the house the whole time.”

The family’s other pet also survived the flames.

“Damian, our great Dane, always stayed near the water faucet in front of the house - that was her place where she guarded the house,” Bobby said. “And when we came back the next day after all the fire was out, Damian was still in her place - guarding the house.”

The family commented on how people in the community have rallied to their needs.

“Everybody has been so good to help and to reach out to us,” said Lorrie, saying that many friends showed up to help with clothes, food and offers of places in their homes to stay.

“Our home church, Central Baptist Church of Italy, the Red Cross and the Italy Youth Athletic Association all pitched in and helped us by providing funds for us to stay in the Holiday Inn Express in Hillsboro,” Lorrie said.

An account has been set up at Citizens National Bank of Italy to help the family.

The house was insured, but the family had no insurance on personal effects. They still had an outstanding note on the house and nine acres.

“The fire trucks couldn’t get up close to the house because of the heat,” Zachary said.

Jasen’s father, Bobby McDowell of Whitney, and John Mennerick of DeSoto, who is a friend of Lorrie’s grandmother, Mildred O’Berry, have begun work to repair the family’s fifth-wheel travel trailer, which was parked close to the back of the family home and which suffered some fire damage.

When repairs are finished, it will be used by the family of five, along with Jasen and Lorrie’s 17-month-old niece, Payslie, who is presently living with the family.

“I couldn’t help but remember the night before the fire, we had 10 people in our house - we are so thankful it didn’t happen then,” Monishia said.

The family will rebuild somehow, Lorrie said, saying they have no intentions of leaving the nine-acre tract where they have lived for 16 years. Jasen owns his own business, J & J Construction, which specializes in sheetrock installation and taping and bedding.

Asked if there were any items the family was able to salvage, Monishia said, “I found three items in my room that weren’t damaged - the crown I won at the National American Miss Pageant, my pageant certificate and the dress I wore in it - that’s all I really need.”

For information about the Citizens National Bank account or on how to help the family, call Central Baptist Church of Italy at 972-483-7474.

E-mail Paul at paul.gauntt@waxahachiedailylight.com