‘It’s just overwhelming’: People step up to help family after tragic house fire

Two dogs killed, house destroyed

RADFORD, Va. – “I noticed there was smoke coming out of the windows and through the car park," Taylor Okes said, recalling what she did when she arrived home Saturday to find her house on fire.

She couldn’t hold back her emotions as she described not being able to rescue her and her mother’s chihuahuas from her burning house.

“I screamed and yelled for the dogs, but they wouldn’t come. I tried to go in, but the smoke got in my eyes. I got choked up and I called 911," Okes said. "They found them. They found the puppies. They weren’t burnt; they were sleeping.”

Okes was in Roanoke Christmas shopping when the fire broke out.

The cause was still undetermined Monday, but authorities believe the fire started in the kitchen.

On the tailgate of a truck outside the home, family and friends sifted through old family photos pulled from the house.

The house belonged to Taylor’s grandmother and her mother purchased it after her grandmother died.

“It was my little mansion in the sky, as I called it. It’s ugly as crap, but it was still my mansion in the sky. I was proud of it. I always felt like I had a place to go,” Taylor’s mother, Sherry Cromar-Thornton, said.

Late Monday afternoon, a GoFundMe account, set up to support Taylor, had already raised nearly half of the $2,000 goal.

A bank account in Okes and Cromar-Thornton’s names has also been set up at Skyline National Bank in Fairlawn.

“We’ll take gift cards, we’ll take donations. Anything is welcome," Cromar-Thornton said.

The money will be used to get clothes and pay bills.

Cromar-Thornton does not have homeowner’s insurance, having given it up a couple of months ago when money got tight after a surgery she had.

“I’m seeing friends that I haven’t talked to in years. Life just takes us on different paths. How we’re able to reconnect, it’s just overwhelming," Okes said about all the support from the community. “I don’t know what to say other than ‘thank you,'” Okes said.