Dog alerts Tallahassee family before house burns in fire

Their night was far from restful.

James Parsons had gone to sleep early in his family's Woodville mobile home. His wife, meanwhile, was just heading to bed.

But that Tuesday morning at 1:56 a.m., the family's 3-year-old chihuahua-dachshund Sir LaRue Winnieschnitzle was restless. The dog nicknamed "Chewbarka" started barking in a panic. "He wouldn't stop," he recalled.

His wife Theresa Parsons tip-toed to the back porch to scope out the area, trying to find what was causing their dog's commotion. It wasn't a possum like they had thought.

Their house was on fire.

Smoke and raging flames billowed from their back porch area.

“It was a wall of flames — it was going to engulf us,” James Parsons recalled. “We got out just in time.”

Hurriedly, they ran to the front of the house and quickly escaped through the front door.

The 1,200-square-foot Elena Drive mobile home with all of the family's possessions sustained about $85,000 worth of damages, said firefighter Matt O’Brien.

“When we came, the structure was fully involved and the fire was pretty much all around it,” O’Brien said.

The family wasn’t injured. But they lost almost everything — furniture, documents, phones, keepsakes and things that can't be replaced, like an heirloom English tea set.

In the charred aftermath, James Parsons foraged for anything that was left, namely his wife’s medication. But instead of the pink prescription bottle, he found her wedding band and engagement ring. They’ve been married for 15 years.

The fire happened on his wife's birthday.

Her autism bracelet, which she wore in honor of their 14-year-old autistic son Brian, was scorched along with all her other autism support memorabilia.

Firemen were able to recover a few photo albums; most of the photos were seared in the fire, but some were salvaged.

"We just wrapped up our bankruptcy and foreclosure on our other home — and now, this," Theresa Parsons said with a bitter laugh.

James Parsons says he and his wife are both physically disabled due to health problems. He's been in and out of hospitals with spinal issues, his wife said, and she is also suffering from spinal and nerve issues.

 “We just need a place to live,” the 51-year-old man said.

Until they find that, the family is temporarily staying with their landlord, who lives next door to their once home in the Woodville mobile home community.

"We need to find a permanent place to stay because we can't move our son around all over because of his autism," Theresa Parsons said.

With their son's autism, "consistency is key,” she explained. Any changes in his routine can cause him severe emotional distress.

“Our son just had a meltdown,” she added. “In the autism spectrum world... it's hard to explain to him, so he doesn't understand.” Neighbors pitched in and bought their son a Nintendo 3DS, a replacement for the one that was destroyed by the fire.

She's just trying to persevere to step by step bring their lives back to the normalcy that once was.

"It's just one day at a time and one step at a time," she said.

All her belongings were destroyed, but her faith wasn’t. She feels their dog Sir LaRue Winniescnitzle was a divine alarm.

“Everything happens for a reason but we don't know what the outcomes are going to be ... but we stand firm in our faith.”

Capital City Church of God off Blountstown Highway is accepting donations at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Donations can be made online at gofundme.com/parsons-family-fire-relief or on Facebook at facebook.com/events/725412430984469.

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© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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