Family loses everything, including pets, in fire

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas couple loses everything, including two family pets, in an early morning fire. The Tyler Fire Department responded to a 911 call just before 8:00am Tuesday on South Jean Avenue. As the homeowners dug through the ashes, they said they're thankful to be alive.

"It was our life, it was our home," said Shirley Culpepper, the homeowner. "We loved it and we [did] everything we could to make it pretty and fix it up."

Shirley and her husband, James, called the house on Jean Avenue home for nearly 10 years.

"It's the place I paid for," James said. "It wasn't much, but I was fixing to start remodeling."

His remodeling plans were halted by an early morning fire. One that left behind a hole in the roof and charred remains of the past. Shirley said it was just like a nightmare.

"You go to bed, and when you wake up, this thing happens," she said.

The homeowners say they first noticed the blaze in the back bedroom. They believe it started with an outlet that had a radio and space heater plugged in.

"A lot of the fires are due to electrical and space heating and stuff like that," said Captain David Admire with The Tyler Fire Department. "It appears that this one was due to electrical at this time."

The fire destroyed everything on one side of the house. The other side was damaged by smoke and water.

"I know we've lost all of our clothes and furniture that we had," said Shirley.

"I lost everything," James added. "Medicine. Everything."

Shirley, James, their daughter, and granddaughter escaped the flames, along with six of their dogs.

"We got the dogs out - all but one," said Shirley.."And, we didn't know that she was still in there."

The seventh dog, Missie, died in the fire along with their pet bird, Romeo. Shirley says it is the pets and memories she will miss most.

"One thing you can't bring back is memories - pictures," she said.

The fire department says an investigation is underway to find out exactly what caused the fire.

A fund to help the family has been set up at South Side Bank under "James and Shirley Culpepper."

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