Lora Stewart credits her dogs, Posey (left) and Prince for saving the lives of her and her husband after a fire broke out in their home in Montrose on March 9. The house itself was completely destroyed, but fire crews were able to save the barns at the couple’s property, which is also a petting farm. Jillian Trainor photo
The chimney is one of the few parts of a Montrose home still standing after a fire broke out on the morning of March 9. Members of the Alberton Volunteer Fire Department answered the call, staying on scene to ensure any hot spots are put out. Jillian Trainor photo
It didn’t take long for the fire to spread at the Montrose home of Lora and William Stewart. Fire crews were on scene for 11 hours, and it’s believed roughly 300 tanks of water were used, making sure the blaze was put out and there were no hot spots that could potentially flare up. Submitted photo
Lora Stewart credits her dogs, Prince and Posey, for saving her life and the life of her husband William, after a fire destroyed their home in Montrose in the early morning hours of March 9.
She said the dogs wake him up every night to go outside, and Mr Stewart eventually got out of bed and got dressed, but smelled smoke as soon as he walked out of the room.
“All of a sudden the fire alarm went off, and he rushed back and got me out of bed,” said Ms Stewart. “I threw on my slippers and house coat. I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t even hear the fire alarm at that point. I’m not sure what he said to me, it’s all just a blur.”
Ms Stewart said there wasn’t even time to think. The couple tried going down the main staircase, but couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. A second set of stairs to the kitchen that lead to the back door was how they were able to get out of the house.
“We didn’t see any fire until the first guy came with their truck,” said Ms Stewart. “We could see through the window, our stairs were just engulfed in flames, that’s how quickly it spread. If it had been 10 minutes later, we would have had to jump out the window and throw our animals out the window.”
Most of the animals inside the home survived, but it’s believed one of the couple’s barn cats wasn’t able to make it out in time.
The couple own and operate Montrose Petting Farm. All animals in the barns on the property were safe, as the five responding fire departments kept the buildings as wet as possible. In total, it’s believed roughly 300 tanks of water were used. Fire crews were on scene for 11 hours, making sure the blaze was put out and there were no hot spots that could potentially flare up.
“There was a line up of fire trucks and tankers coming in, it was incredible, they did an amazing job,” said Ms Stewart. “They kept watering our other buildings so they wouldn’t catch fire, and they were so worried about the barn. They had the power company come in right away and shut it off at the road so it didn’t travel to the barn through the lines.”
The couple are waiting to hear back from their insurance company about their claim.
It’s unsure what caused the fire, but Ms Stewart believes it might have started in the walls.
“For a while before the fire, I kept saying I could smell something every time I went in,” she said.
Right now, the couple are just trying to figure out what their going to do from here, but have been overwhelmed by the amount of support given to them by the community.
One of their neighbours has an empty home about a kilometre down the road, and has told the couple they’re welcome to stay there for as long as they need to. Others have been stopping by with clothes, as the only clothing they had was what they were wearing when the house burned down.
Ms Stewart said what the couple needs right now is money to help purchase some essential items for them, but, more importantly, so they can help care for their animals.
“My animals come first,” she said. “I’ve got to take care of them and make sure they have food and everything, and buy essentials that we need. They’re my life, I couldn’t do without them.”
In the meantime, the petting farm will remain open, and people are more than welcome to stop by and enjoy the animals with the couple.
Ms Stewart said the response from the community has been indescribable.
“It’s amazing, and I so appreciate everything that everybody has done,” she said. “It’s overwhelming, it really is.”
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