Northampton resident Tracey Fountaine can remember seeing an owl perched on the roof of his house as he arrived home from work one day last June.
A few hours later, the owl was still there.
It was a strange sight, he recalls. Normally owls don’t get that close to homes, or stay around long.
That was all before the aging electrical outlet sparked in the basement near the clothes dryer, before the fire leapt up the wall, before Mr. Fountaine was covered in a flaming blanket while desperately battling the blaze. That was also before he spent days in a hospital recovering from burns while his family dealt with what remained of the family home.
But even when the house — the place his wife, Lyn, had called home since childhood — did catch fire and firefighters tried to contain the blaze, the owl didn’t fly away. It stayed there, hopping from one side of the roof to the other, consumed in smoke.
Only after the fire was out and everyone was OK did the owl leave its perch, Mr. Fountaine said.
He believes that owl was like a guardian, watching over his family and keeping them safe. Nine months after the devastating fire, small owl trinkets litter the trailer the Fountaine family is living in as their home is rebuilt bigger and stronger.
“The owl has become like a family symbol,” Mr. Fountaine said. “I know when we go back home, it will come back.”
In many ways, Mr. Fountaine’s story mirrors the lives of other residents in the North Fork area who have lost their homes and possessions — and more — to fire in the past few years. There’s the initial devastation, the grueling recovery and the importance of support from family and friends.
The News-Review sat down with four area residents who were the victims of house fires in recent years to learn more about that recovery process.
Click on the tabs below to read their stories.