Family reeling after house fire kills pet

Five dachshunds survive blaze that gutted OM home

Phyllis Casteel clutches her dog, MacKenzie, at their burned home at 2844 Monroe Lane on Wednesday. Casteel lost another dog in the fire that destroyed the home Tuesday.

Grateful for MacKenzie, they grieved Chloe on Orchard Mesa Wednesday.

One of Phyllis Casteel’s miniature dachshunds, MacKenzie, took shelter from the cold inside her owner’s jacket on the morning after a fire gutted the Casteel family home at 2844 Monroe Lane, killing another dachshund, 3-year-old Chloe. MacKenzie’s eyes were shut Wednesday, still healing from smoke exposure.

“The vet’s worried she may not be able to see out the left eye,” Casteel said.

The dog survived what Casteel estimated to be 45 minutes inside her burning home Tuesday. A Grand Junction firefighter saved the dog, which was found hiding from the smoke under Casteel’s bed.

“That’s what saved her life,” Casteel said.

Fire investigators Wednesday afternoon hadn’t determined a cause for the fire, which caused an estimated $50,000 in damage. Casteel said she was awakened Tuesday by loud popping sounds and walked into her hallway to find the family’s Christmas tree ablaze.

As the fire spread, four of Casteel’s dogs dashed for a doggie-door and found safety in the backyard. MacKenzie and Chloe remained trapped in her bedroom. Chloe didn’t respond to resuscitation efforts after being pulled from the home by a firefighter.

Casteel ran back inside for MacKenzie.

“I was on my hands and knees and made it as far as the kitchen before my breath was taken away,” she said. “Josh (neighbor) pulled me out by my feet.”

Nursing burn wounds to her back and shoulder, Casteel pondered the family’s future, standing outside her charred home wearing pajamas donated by neighbors the night before.

Her son, Tanner, 5, lost all his Christmas presents and his bed, recently given to the family. They have short-term housing in the form of a small apartment, provided by neighbors, across the street from the burned home.

She was given a $225 pre-paid credit card for short-term needs by Western Colorado Red Cross, and the generosity of friends and strangers has been a comfort.

“I didn’t realize how many friends I had on my block,” Casteel said.


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