A devastating thing happened to a family of eight on Tuesday in Palm Coast’s LL Section: they came close to losing their home. As it is, the garage fire in the two-level Llach Court house rendered the place unlivable for now.
Most of the family wasn’t home when the fire broke out in a refrigerator in the garage. Roy Casey, 37, father to six young children, was there with just one of his infant daughters. He spirited her out of the house as soon as the fire broke out, but then went back into the garage to try to put out the fire. He couldn’t. The fire went out of control.
After firefighters arrived and controlled the situation, Casey at first told them he felt fine, Fire Chief Don Petito said today. But firefighters are experienced in the effects of smoke inhalation, which can develop with severe ramifications after the fact. “We talked him into it,” Petito said—and a good thing they did: Casey has been in intensive care at Florida Hospital Flagler since Tuesday, and only had his breathing tube removed today, his wife, Kindra Dixon, said. She’s been at his bedside since, with three of the couple’s children at her sister’s and three at his sister’s.
As if the combination of the fire, the damage to the house and Casey’s struggles in ICU weren’t enough, the family has also had to contend with this: almost all of the attention on the fire’s aftermath has been on a sideshow—the firefighters’ rescue of six dogs, including two puppies.
At least four organizations, including Buzzfeed, the American Kennel Club, a news source in Britain and WGN-TV in Chicago, contacted FlaglerLive for permission to run pictures of the incident—but pictures that showed the puppies receiving oxygen, and a firefighter cradling one of the puppies. None of the organizations showed any interest in the family.
On Thursday, the president of PETA, the animal-rights organization—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—sent a letter to Petito, informing him that on behalf of PETA “and our more than 3 million members and supporters, many of whom live in Florida, I’m pleased to let you know that Flagler County Fire Rescue will be receiving a Compassionate Fire Department Award for rescuing six dogs from a Palm Coast house fire.”
Ingrid Newkirk, the PETA president, went on to say, “We hope your team’s effort will inspire others to come to the aid of animals in need. In recognition of this action, we’ll be sending your department a framed certificate, a box of delicious vegan cookies, and a copy of “The Engine 2 Diet,” a Texas firefighter’s 28-day plan for improving one’s health by switching to a plant-based diet. Thank you again for your compassion.”
The organization also circulated a press release to various media highlighting the award.
“It’s nice that somebody is recognizing the guys for doing a great job on the fire,” Petito said, “but one of the things they missed is that we also rescued the father and the daughter and were able to take them to the hospital also, it’s one of the things we want everybody to remember.”
It’s also what Dixon would like people to keep in mind. “Our dogs are taken care of and I appreciate it, but he’s still in the hospital,” Dixon said this afternoon. Her children, she said, were very grateful that the dogs were saved, “but they love their father too.” She added, “My 15 year old is taking it the hardest, she’s the oldest, she just want us all back together.”
The fire was contained to the garage, but the house itself has “damage everywhere,” Dixon said. “We have to get a contractor out there to even see if we can live in it. The garage is pretty much gone and everything else in the house is covered in soot and smoke damage.” A lot of things have to be thrown out, but getting a dumpster alone will cost $300.
Casey is a maintenance worker at a hotel in Daytona Beach. Dixon works at Golden Corral. She set up a Gofund me page, but it’s drawing little attention. There may be some donor fatigue: donations poured in for the family that lost their house in Flagler Beach fire on May 8. Dixon herself had set aside clothes for the children in that family, clothes that didn’t fit her own children, though the planned donations may have been damaged by the soot and smoke as well. In comparison to that family’s losses, Dixon said, “I consider myself lucky.”
Meanwhile, the house had to be boarded up. And the puppies have kept getting all the attention.
Contacted about the PETA award to Flagler County Fire Rescue this afternoon, a PETA spokesman was asked what the organization might do for the family. “I was just trying to check in with a colleague on that,” the spokesman said.