By on 17 April, 2017 in Lynne Burford with 0 Comments


It is not a word most of us think will ever apply to us. But as of last Friday evening, that is my life situation.

I came home from work at my usual time, as I do five days a week. I had been home at lunchtime to check on my dogs and let them out. All was normal. At 5:30 I fed them all and let them outside, and they meandered in like they always do with full bellies, ready for the couch. I then went to my back porch to feed my cat, and before I could get the food open I smelled smoke. It wasn’t the usual cookout smoke, or leaves being burned. It had a chemical smell. So I went back in my kitchen to make sure all was well inside. What I saw has altered my life.

There was smoke on my ceiling. I thought the fluorescent kitchen light might be melting. Midtown houses are old but well built. However, most have aluminum wiring. I am careful not to overload a circuit, I use the correct light bulbs, I don’t use Glade Plug-Ins. And sometimes even being careful is not enough.

The smoke was coming around the corner. My entire living room was on fire.

Let me assure you, a fire in real time is nothing like a fire on a television show. THERE IS NO TIME to run through picking up memorabilia. My dogs needed to get out. I started calling them out the back door while trying to dial 911 with shaking hands. They came out, then ran back in. Remember, I have a rescue – there were 10 little beings who were frightened, in chaos. Neighbors started running over. We set up a perimeter and got as many as possible in it.

Then I heard the screams of a dog trapped in the burning room. And this, people, is when God sent me an angel.

His name is Ashetan Cook. He is a 20 year-old young man who was on his way to church with his family. They “never come this way.” Ashetan, as I found out, is a dog lover. He heard the dog, whose name is Catfish, and asked me which room he was in. there was only one way to save him, and that was by kicking in the solid wood front door. And Ashetan did just that. I was able to get in and through the flames pull my dog to safety. I was heartbroken to find that my foster dog Heidi did not survive, despite the firemen’s work at resuscitation.

By 11 at night, the firemen were gone and called the house and contents a total loss. It was the old aluminum wiring, corroded, which was the start of the fire. Total loss – everything gone. It could have been easy to fall apart at that point – a lifetime of possessions, sentimental things, priceless art, family heirlooms gone. But I see myself as BLESSED. Blessed that I was home, that it was daytime, that I had insurance, a wonderful landlord, so many friends who came and stood by with me. Blessed to have my dogs safe. Catfish suffered second degree burns and an injured back and stayed in the hospital a couple of days, but he is ALIVE. Blessed to have a daughter to house me temporarily. Blessed to be covered up in love from strangers. Blessed to know Ashetan Cook. Homeless and blessed beyond measure. God is good.

One of the many “morals” of this story: PLEASE have your midtown home’s wiring checked by an electrician regularly. As much as we love these houses, they are like senior citizens and need a check-up yearly. Knowing to do this might have saved me from this life-altering experience. It is so important to be proactive. Have an escape plan in mind for your pets in case of a fire. Being able to think about these things ahead of time may save a life.

(I will in the following weeks be looking for a house to rent once I start “starting over.” Email me if you have or hear of something. Must be pet friendly.)

Lynne Burford is a lifelong animal advocate who has been rescuing since she was a little girl. From birds and snakes to raccoons and foxes, she has rehabilitated and released back into the wild many orphaned and injured creatures. For the last ten years her focus has been on fostering and volunteering with rescues to place dogs into permanent and loving homes. Aside from various sizes of foster dogs, she owns a small pack of chihuahuas.

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