A relaxing evening for Randy Duke had no omens of the frantic moments about to ensue.
Duke was tinkering with his Harley-Davidson in his garage, with his 12-year-old son Jared, two friends, and the family’s dogs.
A passerby suddenly walked up to the garage and told the group that smoke and flames were rising from the second floor.
There had been no warning. No smell. No sounds.
With Bella the pit bull inside the house and in danger, Duke ran to look for her.
He raced upstairs, finding the master bedroom aglow in flames. His walk-in closet was an inferno. And Bella was nowhere to be found.
Duke rushed downstairs to call 911.
By then, flames were billowing out of the bedroom and the smoke was thick throughout the house, making it impossible to find the dog.
Several neighbours came to help, using a garden hose in an attempt to douse the flames.
Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service crews arrived about seven minutes after the 911 call.
It was another 15 minutes before Bella was found unconscious by firefighters, who revived her with oxygen, using one of four special pet masks donated to the department last year by a Langley veterinarian clinic.
According to fire chief Don Beer, around a dozen animals have benefited from the masks, including one rabbit and several cats and dogs.
Deputy fire chief Jeff Adams said the cause of the fire is unknown but Duke said he suspects it was caused by an electrical problem in his bedroom’s closet.
Bella was taken to a veterinarian, who treated her for smoke inhalation and burnt paws. Two days after the fire, she still had trouble breathing and was coughing but was in good spirits.
“I love [my dogs] to the moon and back. I never want them to get hurt like that again… they’re just really special to me,” said Jared, Duke’s son.
Two days after the dramatic evening, Duke spoke to the News.
He didn’t sleep until the following night, about 24 hours after the fire.
“I don’t know how to explain it. I go through so many different emotions, it’s insane. I’m happy as hell that everybody’s safe; the animal’s are alive; everybody’s alive,” he said.
“Everything can be replaced. It’s not that I’m worried about materialistic stuff, but at the end of the day, you need that stuff to get by, especially a family of this size.”
Duke has four children and a granddaughter, but Jared was the only one home at the time of the fire. Duke’s wife, Jennifer Patterson-Duke, was visiting family in Ontario.
It could be a year before his family is back in their own home. In the meantime, they expect to get a rental home, paid for by their insurance company.
He also said his re-bar placing company has suffered, as he has been unable to work since the fire because he is unable to access his computer in the house.
Both Bootlegger and Laces Footwear and Clothing reached out to Duke with offers of help in replacing items lost in the fire. A family friend has been caring for Bella and the Abbotsford Local Fire Fighters’ Association is paying the veterinarian bill.
“A lot of people have sure banded together in this whole area. It’s unreal to see. It makes us have a new thought on where we live,” said Duke. “I wouldn’t want to live in another community anymore.”