DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - U.S. Coast Guard veteran Kerry Sprague has been displaced after an accidental fire destroyed her home in Daytona Beach, days ahead of Veterans Day.
Sprague was in a class when she got a call from her next-door neighbor, Jackie Ramos, who told her that her house had gone up in flames. The cause of the blaze hasn’t been determined, according to Sprague. She was able to confirm it started in the kitchen before spreading to the rest of the home. Sprague’s four dogs and her cat were inside at the time of the incident.
The dogs died, and the cat hasn’t been located since the fire. Three of the animals were service or therapy dogs, the other was a stray she took in.
"I have memories. I have nothing else," Sprague said.
Ramos, who is also a veteran, said she tried to save them but was unable to.
"I jumped the fence on that side, went to the back of the house… [and] tried to crawl in," Ramos said.
She said she was only able to get about 10 feet into the home before the roof began to collapse, and she had to escape. Ramos served in the Navy, and she told FOX 35 News when she saw the smoke, it was her instinct to go in after the animals.
Ramos also has a service dog and would often babysit Sprague’s dogs and vice versa.
"I don't regret a single moment of it. I wouldn't regret it if I got hurt. It doesn't matter. I'm just glad I was there to help or try to help."
Sprague deals with PTSD. The dogs assisted her with panic attacks and other effects.
"These were my lifelines. Ripley's the reason I got out in the world. Nami and Valkyrie brought joy to others," she said. "And when Ripley wasn't available, they stepped in and took care of me."
In the aftermath of the incident, a nonprofit organization named Ormond Strong stepped in to help.
Ormond Strong assists veterans and the families of veterans. On Friday, organizers Reina Giaimo and Debbie Kruck-Forrester stood by Sprague’s side as she walked through the incredibly damaged home. Giaimo and Kruck-Forrester are leading efforts to raise money for Sprague’s new living situation.
"For somebody that doesn't ask for help. The fact that I have people standing behind me… is not only a blessing, but it is so precious."
The current building in the 1300 block of North Paradise Lane is a total loss. Giaimo said Sprague has made a major impact on the Daytona Beach community, and she’s hopeful people will support her in her time of need. Sprague said the tragic incident should serve as an unfortunate reminder for others.
"Hold those that you have dear. Love those animals. Be grateful for what you have, because tomorrow… I don't know where I'm going to be tomorrow. I don't have a home anymore."
Sprague is living with a friend until she figures out where to go next.