Friday, September 25, 2020
Sept. 25, 2020

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Lost dog a ‘missing piece’ in Longview family’s recovery from house fire


LONGVIEW — Roxanne Ponn awoke around 5 a.m. on Christmas Day, full not of excitement but sorrow.

Instead of opening gifts, Ponn, drove from a motel to the Longview home she and her husband were forced out of Monday after a kitchen fire caused upwards of $40,000 in damage. Ponn, 52, sat in her car crying, accompanied by two of the four dogs firefighters rescued from the blaze.

“It’s been absolutely tragic, just to not be able to go home and flop on the couch to watch TV. My toothbrush is absolutely toast. … The ceiling throughout my kitchen is totally black,” Ponn said Thursday. “I’m just so thankful that none of my animals died.”

The Ponns are working with their insurance company to recover their belongings from the house and prepare for repairs. Ultimately, their plan is to move back into the home, which they’ve lived in since October 2010. An employee with ServPro told Ponn Thursday that it will likely be six to eight months before they can move back in.

Until then, the couple is staying in a motel and will move into a rental home as one becomes available.

But there’s still one missing piece before “my heart is back together,” Ponn said. One of her dogs ran away the day of the fire, and the family still hasn’t found the missing Chihuahua. Ponn has stopped by her home every day since the fire to see if the dog has returned.

“(Finding the dog) would actually help me during this tragedy,” Ponn said Thursday. “I love that little dog. … She is a lot of comfort to me.”

The fire started around 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Ponn’s home in the 500 block of 15th Avenue. Longview Fire is still investigating the cause, said Battalion Chief Troy Buzalsky.

Although firefighters extinguished the blaze in about 10 minutes, damage could exceed $40,000, according to initial estimates. Considering the price for temporary housing, Ponn expects to spend nearly $250,000 before she and her husband can move back in.

“What looks like a small fire can actually cause a lot of damage,” Buzalsky said.

Ponn said she’s unsure if the couple can salvage the “little things” caught in the fire, such as the vintage cookie jars that lined the top shelf in her kitchen. And the family has taken a financial hit because she’s taken time off from work to recover emotionally and get their affairs in order, she said.

“We have to be patient, expect the worst but hope for the best,” Ponn said. “That’s all I can do today.”

The silver lining, though, is that all nine family pets survived the fire, Ponn said. Neighbors and firefighters helped rescued four cats and five dogs from the home. Firefighters resuscitated two of the cats because they were in critical condition from smoke inhalation.

A fifth dog, Pooh, “bolted” out of the gate, scared off by the flames, said Duncan Stolz, one of the neighbors who helped rescue the animals. Stolz chased after Pooh for two blocks to try and bring her home, but the dog evaded capture.

Pooh is a rescue dog that took a particular liking to Ponn. Ponn says the two are “bonded.”

“She is so attached to me out of everybody. … She’s one of those (dogs) that will get up in my face, and she will sit there and press her cheek right into my face because she wants me to give her kisses,” Ponn said.

Ponn, her neighbors and other family friends have been searching for the dog since Monday. Ponn said Harry Oakes, a search and rescue dog handler, donated his time on Christmas Eve to try to find Pooh with his tracking dogs.

Although the search came up empty, Oakes determined that Pooh walked around the Highlands area near Industrial Way and Arkansas Street, and the dog also walked by the Les Schwab Tire Center and ran up to 26th Avenue. Oakes suspects Pooh ran a total of four miles, Ponn said.

Oakes’ tracking dogs “gave no indication of death,” Ponn said, so she thinks an area resident might have taken the dog into their home.

“If I had the time, I would literally go from house to house for blocks and blocks distributing flyers to find her,” Ponn said.

Ponn’s sister, Lorrie, is offering a $500 reward for Pooh’s safe return.

Two of Ponn’s dogs are staying with the couple in their motel, and family and friends are boarding the other two. All of the cats are staying at the Cowlitz County Humane Society until the couple “establishes permanent residency,” Ponn said.

“Mentally I’m in a meltdown,” Ponn said. “And I think that thing that really pushed me over was my dog that’s missing.”