Dogs perish in fire that destroys couple’s Gainesville-area home
Gainesville-area residents Richard and Cindi Miller got the news Sunday evening that their home off AA Highway was on fire as Cindi was being admitted to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains for treatment of pneumonia. And that double-whammy of hard events was made even more gut-wrenching when they learned that some of the dogs Cindi was caring for through her work with a dog-rescue organization had perished in the fire.
The fire was discovered shortly before 8:30 p.m. Sunday when daughter Brenda Miller, who lives nearby, came to the home to put a load of laundry in the dryer. She had been there about 45 minutes earlier to start the load of wash, Richard Miller said. When she returned, “she said she could see flames in the kitchen part of the house,” Richard said Monday.
Caney Mountain Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched, and Gainesville, Lick Creek and Tecumseh VFDs responded in mutual aid. Water to fight the fire became an issue, and Caney Mountain VFD chief Bob Peat said firefighters had to shuttle equipment back and forth to a hydrant near the cedar plant off Highway 160 to haul water to the scene.
Peat said he notified the state fire marshal, but later it was decided that Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy Curt Dobbs, a state certified fire investigator, would start the investigation.
Dobbs said Monday the first firefighters on scene reported that the fire appeared to be centered in the middle and toward the rear of the house, where the kitchen is located. “The exact origin is unknown due to the extensive damage but is not believed to be suspicious,” Dobbs said.
He added that he was told that three dogs had died in the fire. But from the hospital, Cindi Miller posted Monday on Facebook that four of her dogs had perished. The post showed photos of four Boston terriers with a farewell: “RIP: Obi, Lucy, Suzy and Mabel.”
Gainesville firefighter Sage McGinnis saved another dog from the smoke and flames. “We were trying to knock the fire down and made entry through the back of the house,” McGinnis said. “I looked down, and there was the dog by the door. She was pretty scared, and I don’t even know how I saw her. We didn’t think we would be able to get any of the dogs out, as far along as the fire was. The others were in a bedroom.”
A bassett hound is missing from the Millers’ property; anyone in the area who finds the dog is asked to call Richard at 417-989-0328.
Dozens of friends responded to Cindi Miller’s sad post with condolences and offers of help.
Asked Monday what the couple needed, Richard said, “I don’t know what to tell you. The only clothes we have is what we had on. But some people have brought me some clothes this morning. And all kinds of people have offered help.”
He said he would “see what the insurance says.”
The Millers have family members in the area, Richard said. A fund has been set up at Century Bank for donations to help the family.
Peat said seven Caney Mountain VFD personnel fought the blaze, and Gainesville, Lick Creek and Tecumseh departments each sent three personnel plus heavy equipment. Firefighters cleared the scene about 1:30 a.m. Monday.