"Our whole life was in that house," Kaysie Breer said.
A Barre Town family watched in disbelief as their log home burned before their eyes. The blaze broke out just before 9 a.m. Wednesday. The homeowners had just left to get their four kids off to day care and school. They returned home to a nightmare.
"I made it to the bottom of the stairs and the smoke was very heavy," Damian Barnett said. "I turned the corner, there were flames, so I used as much of the fire extinguisher as I could and then I started choking and had to run out the front door or the basement door."
Crews from six fire departments tried to contain the smoke billowing from the windows. It was a battle they eventually lost.
"It started in the basement, worked its way up through. Took out the floors early on, so we were unable to do any interior firefighting at that point. We were doing all external," Barre Town Fire Chief Chris Violette said.
Three hours after the blaze broke out the chief said the fire was trapped beneath the roof, making it unsafe for his firefighters to continue fighting it. The only option was to call in an excavator. It was news that brought Barnett to his knees. Three years ago he built the log cabin himself, with dreams of one day retiring there. A life plan that went up in smoke one month before Christmas.
"You don't think about anything. You don't about the belongings. People say that's what you think about, but you don't," Barnett said. "I never once thought about going to grab a picture of the kids."
Now, the only family photos this couple has left are the ones on their cellphones. And they say the hardest part of this ordeal is yet to come.
"My issue right now is the fact that we have to still tell the kids and I'm not sure how we're going to do this," Breer said. "It's a month before Christmas and now we have no home."
The one silver lining-- no one was hurt. Hand in hand, the couple watched as an excavator freed the trapped smoke, taking just minutes to wreck what took them years to build.
"We have to rebuild the house for the kids," Barnett said.
"We have to start over," Breer said.
"That's what the important thing is," Barnett agreed. "They have no home."
The couple says they were able to get their two dogs out safely, but they fear their cat may have died in the fire. Officials still aren't sure what sparked the blaze.
Donations can be sent to:
Barnett Family Recovery 68 Woodland Dr. Barre, VT 05641