A call from friends interrupted a late Sunday afternoon cookout at the lake for Robert Crane and Cindy Neely. Friends called to tell them their home was on fire.
Everything likely included pets — three of four small dogs, Maggie, Chloe, a blind Chihuahua named Tigger and a newly arrived German Shepherd puppy, Bonnie.
“I don't know where to start,” Crane told a friend who asked if they needed anything or a place to stay. “Everything we own is in that home.”
After more than 30 hopeless minutes, a firefighter found Bonnie hugged up against the backyard fence as far away as possible from the charred outline left in the grass by flames.
The fire call came about 5 p.m., Smith County Assistant Fire Marshal Oren Hale said. Flint-Gresham, Noonday and Bullard departments worked the fire scene.
“It was all strictly defensive at that point,” he said. “There was nothing we could do but keep it from spreading.”
The neighbor's Cadillac, parked 20 feet from the home, was smoking when Newburn and his crew arrived. The car was saved but bubbled and blackened paint on its side showed signs of the heat.
Michelle Simington, a neighbor, said neighborhood men had knocked on the door to see if anyone was home after the fire started. One man kicked in the front door and stepped inside before being overcome by smoke. There was a chance that another dog escaped she said.
Firefighters continued their work as Ms. Neely held Bonnie tight, sobbing. A look of tragic relief gripped her face as her daughter and friends searched the neighborhood for the other pets.
Bullard and Noonday fire units left the scene to respond to another fire at ShadyBrook on Elizabeth Street, near southern Lake Palestine, which began around 7:20 p.m. The mobile home was a total loss, Newburn said, but the occupants escaped unharmed.