COXSACKIE — A 5-year-old boy was called a hero Monday for helping his family and their pets escape a fire that destroyed their home Saturday afternoon
Jason and Marissa LaTour, their two foster sons, ages 5 and 6, and their four dogs escaped the blaze at their home at 86 Riverside Ave. unharmed, but they lost all their belongings.
Marissa’s 5-year-old first noticed the flames coming from the boys’ bedroom and immediately told her and Jason, she said Monday.
“I could hear the door open and close really fast,” she recalled. “He said, ‘Daddy, there’s a poof, there’s a fire.’”
Marissa declined to reveal boys’ names to protect their privacy.
Jason extinguished the flames on one side of the bedroom, but they reignited. The fire spread and it was then the family and their four dogs fled from the home.
“The scariest thing was how fast it was,” Marissa said of the fire’s reach. “It was in the boys’ bedroom. If they had been sleeping in there, they never would have made it out.”
The blaze ripped through the home Saturday, destroying it and leaving one side charred, Coxsackie Fire Chief Shawn Burdick said. The house was a total loss from extensive smoke and water damage.
Officials have not determined a cause, but Marissa said the blaze may have been electrical in nature.
Family friend and firefighter Duane Keezer walked through the home after the flames were extinguished and found charred children’s toys and scattered bits of clothing, he said, which sparked an idea.
A benefit for the LaTour family is scheduled for 3 to 7 p.m. June 20 at The Cask and Rasher, 245 Mansion St., Coxsackie, to help the family of four get back on its feet.
“I know they’re going to need a good starting foundation of goods to get back on their feet,” said Keezer, who works with LaTour at the Greene Correctional Facility. He is a corrections officer, and she processes payroll.
Keezer met with restaurant owner Jarrett Lane on Monday to discuss event details.
“We’re going to try to get the community involved to help the family rebuild,” Keezer said. “I think we’re going to set up a truck or trailer for donations — people can donate toys, clothing and toiletries.”
Marissa’s positive outlook and Keezer’s reassurances have kept the family going.
“They’ve scratched the bottom of the barrel and worked their way to where they were,” he said.
Keezer does not have a fundraising goal to reach, he said, but is happy to help a family in need because he knows hardship firsthand.
Keezer, a Petty Officer 2nd Class in the U.S. Navy, completed a tour of the Persian Gulf in 1997 on the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy. When he left the Navy in 2002, people helped him readjust to civilian life in several ways, including helping him move.
“I adjusted coming into the world,” he said. “I had a low-paying job... I’ve had it [people help] done for me in the past, and it’s only right that I pay it forward.”
Marissa praised Keezer for helping her get through the situation and called him her godsend. The Coxsackie community and first responders have also been supportive, she added.
“He kept me calm, he kept me laughing even though my world was blowing up in my face,” Marissa said. “I’ve been telling people everything’s been OK.”
Marissa and her family are staying at the Best Western on Route 9W in West Coxsackie. The dogs are staying at her sister’s house. Marissa has found herself returning to her former home, which was built by her parents in 1992, on instinct.
“Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and went on autopilot and went home instead of to the hotel,” she said.
The family remains resilient since the fire, and Marissa is happy everyone escaped safely, adding you can get a new house, but you cannot replace family.
“I couldn’t ask for anything else,” Marissa said. “Everybody got out and got to where they needed to be. We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.