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Two dogs save the day

Jodi Lewis (back) and her twins, Sam (left) and Sydney (right) credit their dog Coco for ringing the bell to alert them their house was on fire. Kit Murray / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Serenity, the family's foster dog, was returned to Underdog Rescue after the fire. Submitted photo by Jodi Lewis2 / 3
Reeses, the family's guinea pig, was able to escape the house fire safely, too. Submitted photo by Jodi Lewis3 / 3

Jodi Lewis and her twins Sam and Sydney trained their dog Coco to ring a bell when she needed to go outside. Early morning on May 6, bells were ringing for an entirely different reason.

Red Wing firefighters responded to a 2 a.m. call and discovered the home at 1922 Burton St. was in flames. Starting in the garage and extending into the attic space, the fire caused heavy damage to the two-story home.

"My daughter and I both got up and Sydney said, 'Mom, the house is full of smoke," Jodi said.

"I ran downstairs and saw that the door that goes into the garage was on fire. I let the dogs out the front door, yelled for the kids to get out and when we got outside the whole garage was in flames."

Coco, the 7-year-old pitbull mix, and Serenity, a 5-month-old foster dog who is Kelpie mix, were barking and ringing the bells to alert the family of danger. Without the two dogs, the family may not have been able to escape as quickly as they did.

The guinea pig, Reeses, also made it out safely and so did the cat, Tigger, who was administered oxygen from two firefighters at the scene.

It was discovered, Jodi noted, that the smoke alarms did go off shortly after the dogs alerted them.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Red Wing Fire Chief Shannon Draper said. However, the car in the garage was ruled out as not being the cause.

"The plan right now is just to hold it together and get through it; move forward. We can do that," Jodi said. "We loved our house and it's really hard to say goodbye to it. But when you don't have a choice, you just have to face it and go forward."

Now that a few days have passed, the family members said they understand that the house will more than likely have to be torn down.

"The house didn't burn to the ground, very little is salvageable," Jodi said. "My husband passed away seven and a half years ago and (we) found several things of his that he had saved. The important stuff we found, they didn't burn."

Items the kids and mother discovered were a lightsaber Sam made at Disneyland last summer,

wedding rings, pieces of trips that were taken overseas and the husband's urn. The three are currently staying with Jodi's mother and father in Wacouta until their new house is built in six months, she said.

Shannon Tarr founder of Emotional Rescue in Hastings, met Jodi over 10 years ago at a MOMS Club in Red Wing. The family dogs were originally part of McKenzie's emergency rescue organization.

No one knows if Coco had been trained to help with situations like this.

"It's a natural thing that a lot of dogs will do, they see their people as part of their pack and they respect that," Tarr said.

As friends, family and even strangers caught wind of what happened, they reached out to donate money, food and other items to help the Lewises get back on their feet. Jodi said she's received gas cards to help her travel to Rochester during the week to study at Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences and even movie tickets for her and her children to get away for a while.

"It's been really amazing. I'll tell you what, if you ever need a testimony of a community coming together, this is it," Jodi said.

Nora Flueger Avery, a close friend of Jodi's, created a GoFundMe page on Facebook with a goal of $15,000. Currently, the campaign has raised $10,250.

"Losing your house is a big deal, but then all of these other extenuating circumstances, it's just difficult," Tarr said. "She's such a strong woman. She's so smart and so kind, people just want to turn around and give her return on her good karma."

Sydney and Sam, both in eighth grade at Red Wing High School, mentioned how grateful they are for everything they've been given after the fire.

"I have been using all the stuff I have gotten every single day, it's all I have," Sydney said.

For those who would like to reach out and donate, visit the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/lewis-family-fire-assistance.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

(651) 301-7874
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