PLATTSBURGH — A neighbor called Sandra LaPierre to tell her house was on fire and her three dogs were still inside.
“I drove there like a crazy person,” the Plattsburgh woman said.
One of the pups had been rescued by the time she reached her home on Cusprini Way in Underwood Trailer Park.
“I was screaming for the others.”
City of Plattsburgh firefighters saved them from the smoke-filled interior of the mobile home.
“I’m forever grateful for that,” she said.
Her Akita-chow mix, Dakota, cocker-Schnauzer Trinity and black Lab-pitbull puppy Keishia were traumatized but are otherwise healthy, though eight finches and two parakeets died in the Jan. 25 fire, which started in the home’s crawl space.
‘FURNACE SPARKED FIRE’
Smoke detectors sounded the alarm just after 8 p.m., Plattsburgh City Fire Department Lt. Shawn Clark said, and neighbors alerted them about the dogs inside the house.
About $10,000 in damage was caused to the structure, with a loss of about $5,000 in contents, he said.
Plattsburgh City Police ruled the furnace as the culprit.
“It was leaking,” LaPierre learned after the fire.
Fortunately, fire didn’t spread from the crawl space to the rest of the house, so there is only smoke damage in the living quarters, she said.
‘CAN’T AFFORD MATERIALS’
LaPierre just wants to go home.
“Everything in my home is salvageable, and my home is, too, if I can pay to fix it.”
A contractor, LaPierre said, told her repairs could be made for between $3,000 and $4,000, and she has family and friends with building skills who are volunteering to do the work.
But she has no insurance on the mobile home and no money to buy the materials she needs, she said.
She bought the 1988 mobile home several years ago and only has a signed receipt saying she paid it off.
That’s not enough for the insurance companies she applied to for coverage, she said.
“Two years ago, I had a company that said it could but then said no because I hadn’t been insured for so long.”
‘OUT OF THE REALM’
Meanwhile, there’s the question of where she can live — and how to afford that alternate housing — while she figures out how to pay for the repairs to the mobile home.
LaPierre, 47, is disabled, so she lives on a fixed income that can’t cover apartment rental elsewhere and her continued lot rent of $360 monthly at Underwood.
Just now, she and the dogs are living in her camper, parked outside a relative’s home.
“I’m a very independent person, so this is so out of the realm for me (to rely on others).”
She couldn’t take advantage of emergency programs immediately after the fire because she refused to be separated from Dakota, Trinity and Keishia.
“Nobody gave options for the dogs,” she said.
In the days following the disaster, LaPierre made numerous calls, looking for programs that could help her buy the building materials she needs, along with a new heating source.
Lowe’s, she learned, would give her a discount on bulk purchases. And Curtis Lumber in Plattsburgh has a program that may help.
One agency can provide a dumpster for the cleanup, she said.
The North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross gave her some money to help with laundering smoke-contaminated clothing.
Finally, an appointment with Clinton County Social Services Department gave her a bit of hope.
She needs to get two estimates on the repairs and show she has applied for and been turned down for two loans, she said.
Then, she said, “there’s a possibility they may help me.”
But the value of the mobile home would have to justify the cost of the improvements, LaPierre was told.
And if the county agency does provide some funds, an actual contractor would have to do the work, she said.
So that would boost the cost.
“Catch-22,” she said. “It’s discouraging.
“I’m just very overwhelmed.”
At the same time, she remains grateful.
“There’s so much more that could have happened but didn’t.”
Email Suzanne Moore: email@example.com
HOW TO HELP
To arrange a donation to help Sandra LaPierre with fire recovery, reach her at 572-0725.
A fundraiser banquet will be held for her from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Store Tavern, 4946 South Catherine St., Plattsburgh.
Final details had not been ironed out Tuesday.