‘If it wasn’t for the dogs, we would be dead’: Pets alert owners to overnight fire in western PEI

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MONTROSE, PEI — Were it not for their dogs waking them up in the middle of the night, Lora and William Stewart doubted they would still be alive.

“If it wasn’t for the dogs, we would be dead,” said Lora.

While a fire burned through their Montrose home overnight on March 9, the two loyal canines – Posey and Prince – jumped into bed, waking William.

Figuring they just wanted outside, William’s instinct was to ignore them; fortunately, the dogs persisted, and William got up.

“I got dressed and I just got outside the bedroom doors and that’s when the smoke detectors went off,” he said.

In the aftermath of a house fire, Montrose resident Lora Stewart is thankful none of her animals were harmed.  – Kristin Gardiner/SaltWire Network
In the aftermath of a house fire, Montrose resident Lora Stewart is thankful none of her animals were harmed. – Kristin Gardiner/SaltWire Network

It was 3:45 am For the next 11 hours, the couple watched as their home was consumed by flames and local fire departments fought to keep the destruction contained.

The Alberton, West Point, O’Leary, Tignish and Miminegash fire departments all attended the scene.

By the time the trucks left at 3 pm, the place they called home had been reduced to a wreck.

“The firemen were just unbelievable, it was amazing,” said a teary-eyed Lora. “We can’t thank them enough.”

As of 4 pm on March 9, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

For the last year, the Stewarts have operated Montrose Petting Farm on their property. They have around 80 animals, from dogs and cats to goats and horses.

Lora cannot remember how she felt, rushing to get out of the house and watching the fire rage through the building. She does recall, though, that the pets were her top priority – getting the dogs outside and running back for the cats.

Even though their home and almost everything they own is gone, all Lora can think about is how fortunate she feels that all their animals escaped unscathed.

Although Lora and William Stewart's home has been destroyed in a March 9 fire, they are keeping their Montrose Petting Farm open.  Lora felt fortunate that the fire did not reach their barn and all the animals on the property were unscathed.  – Kristin Gardiner/SaltWire Network
Although Lora and William Stewart’s home has been destroyed in a March 9 fire, they are keeping their Montrose Petting Farm open. Lora felt fortunate that the fire did not reach their barn and all the animals on the property were unscathed. – Kristin Gardiner/SaltWire Network

The wind, said Lora, was blowing away from their barn.

“I’d have just gone crazy if something happened to them,” she said. “I love my animals more than anything.”

Both Lora and William are shaken following the fire. Still, they refuse to let the chaos put their lives on pause and are keeping their petting farm open.

“The animals still need attention,” said William. “They’re all sooky babies.”

A Montrose home has been destroyed by an overnight fire on March 9. Kristin Gardiner/SaltWire Network
A Montrose home has been destroyed by an overnight fire on March 9. Kristin Gardiner/SaltWire Network

In the aftermath, people from the community have dropped by to offer them clothes and other essentials to help them in their time of need.

Some, said Lora, even walked to the house with supplies while the firefighters had the road blocked off.

A neighbor has even offered up space in their house to the couple for as long as they need it. The couple had insurance, but it will be a long way to get back on their feet.

“It’s just been overwhelming,” said Lora, who said the support was unexpected. “We appreciate everything that everyone has donated and helped us out with.”


Kristin Gardiner is a reporter with the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island. She can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @KristinGardiner.

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