The fire started before 11 p.m. in the front bedroom closet on Saturday night at 800 Ave. A. The fire then spread across the front of the house, Captain Ken Spencer of the Dodge City Fire Department said.

What the fire didn't claim Saturday night, the smoke and soot did, leaving white walls coated streaky black, infusing itself into toys and furniture and killing the family's Chihuahua.

None of the family, the parents, grandmother or three young children, was injured. Two adult cats and a litter of kittens also made it out, though one kitten was burned.

The fire started before 11 p.m. in the front bedroom closet on Saturday night at 800 Ave. A. The fire then spread across the front of the house, Captain Ken Spencer of the Dodge City Fire Department said.

In its path the fire cooked the bedroom door jamb to char and exposed the latticework inside the opposite door. Smoke engulfed the girls' bedroom above.

Stormy Swint, one of the residents, and her husband, Wayne Schweikhard, tried putting it out after calling the fire department, but couldn't stop it.

"They've lost everything," said Tiffany Remigio, a friend of the family who is collecting donations. "Every little thing would help. Dishes, clothes, toys, food," she added, as would money to fill the gaps.

From the house the family salvaged a coffee table and a refrigerator that was already on the fritz.

By the next day kids had started trespassing into the house, running off as the family and friends returned to look for anything salvageable in the mess, Remigio said.

"I don't want to go back in there," Swint said, wearing donated clothes.

City fire investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire, but determined it was not caused by an electrical short. The fire caused roughly $25,000 in damage, Spencer said. The structure of the house, built in 1900 and owned by L&E Farms in Oklahoma, remains sound.

The family does not have renters insurance.

Renters insurance starts at about $9 a month for minimum coverage which includes $20,000 in damages, $100,000 in liability and $1,000 for medical coverage, said Erin Kane, an insurance representative at Rob Sowers' State Farm agency in Dodge City.

Not many people seek it out renters insurance, though "Once you mention it, they go 'That's a good idea,' " Kane said. It can cost less in combination with a car insurance policy. The insurance can also provide gap payments if renters need to live in a more expensive place while the damaged building is being repaired, or even pay for food.

House fires have been on a decline since at least 1977, according to the National Fire Protection Association, a fire safety advisory group, when it recorded over 723,000 incidents. In 2011, that number had dropped to approximately 370,000.

Most civilian fire deaths occur in home fires, about 84 percent, while accounting for 28 percent of fires. Of those, 70 percent occur in single-family residences and duplexes.

Luckily the residents were awake when the fire started, Spencer said of the Ave. A fire, as the house did not have working smoke detectors. The fire department has provided free smoke detectors to residents for about six months, a program started after a double fire fatality in a home without detectors in December.

In the meantime, the young family is trying to get their lives jumpstarted and would be thankful for a step in that direction.

"We don't want to sound greedy," Schweikhard said. "But even my son's shoes were burned in the fire."

Contact Tiffany Remigio, a friend of the family, at 620-253-8419, or on Facebook to offer assistance. They could use children's clothes, the girls are size 6-7 and 3, and the boy is size 5, Schweikhard said.

Second fire Sunday

Dodge City firefighters responded to a fire on Sunday afternoon after the exhaust on a small bulldozer ignited a hay bale at Southwestern Livestock on Trail Street. The fire spread to about 40 bales, causing $4,000 in damage and taking about five hours to extinguish.

Hay fires can be tenacious, Dodge City Fire Captain Ken Spencer said. "Once that fire gets into the bales you have to tear them apart and spread them out and keeping hitting them" with water, Dodge City Fire Department Captain Ken Spencer said.

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that firefighters emptied the upstairs bedroom closet into the room photographed. This is not correct. The Daily Globe regrets this error.