Fire heavily damages Portsmouth home

Portsmouth police released this image of a fire at a house on Locust Avenue, early Tuesday, July 10, 2018.

A single mother and her children are without a home after it was heavily damaged in a fire.

Portsmouth firefighters are investigating whether a bird's nest sparked the fire.

Firefighters responded to 29 Locust Ave. at about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday where flames were shooting from the second floor.

“I was laying in my bed with my boyfriend. We smelled smoke. I opened my bedroom curtain and I saw the flames,” said Jessica O’Brien.

She raced around the house, woke up her three sons and got out.

“We all evacuated through the downstairs door here,” O’Brien said.

The five people in the house escaped unharmed. It took firefighters about 30 minutes to get the fire under control.

Acting Interim Fire Chief Howard Tighe told NBC 10 News a large bird’s nest sat under the second floor and might have started the fire when it rubbed against a power line.

O’Brien and her friends spent Tuesday trying to salvage what they could from the home. They placed items on the front lawn, including piles of clothes and family photos.

“I keep having breakdowns,” O’Brien said. “I keep going through stuff and it doesn't feel real.”

O’Brien has been renting the home on Locust Avenue for six years. She hopes strangers will donate items, including clothes for her three boys, who are ages 17, 14, and 10. She's also looking for a place to live.

“You can replace things. You can't replace people, but it still sucks because I'm a mom and I’m responsible to provide housing for my kids and right now I feel like I can't give them anything,” said O’Brien. “I have nothing. I'm not going to be able to go to work for a couple of days because I need to figure out where we're going to stay.”

Anyone who wants to donate items, gift cards, or money to the family can drop them off at the Portsmouth Fire Department. The American Red Cross is assisting the family.

Two GoFundMe pages have been set up to raise money for the family: here and here.

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