LA VERNIA, Texas — When a fire destroyed the home of a family in La Vernia, they managed to keep not only themselves, but also more than 30 animals safe. Now, they're starting to pick up the pieces.
"Every one of them are my babies. Every one," Brandi Owen said, walking over to her horse pen.
Saying Brandi is an animal lover would be an understatement. Between the dogs, horses, mules, and other animals, it takes her a moment to tally up all the creatures she and her family had under their roof.
Troy Owen, hearing an electronic chirp, picks up a toy monkey while surveying the damage in his daughter's bedroom.
"We can try to clean it up," he said, brushing away at the soot.
"What the fire doesn't get, the smoke and water does," he said.
Fire investigators told the Owens they are not sure what started the fire that took most of their house, just that it appears to have started in their horse-trailer.
"The fire got in the attic and there’s no ceiling and the water damage. It's horrific," Brandi said.
With the help of firefighters and one passing stranger Brandi calls "an angel," all people and pets managed to get out safely.
"I think it took me two days to find out where everybody was at," Brandi said.
Most of the animals are either back at the property or staying with friends, but the six foster puppies she was raising had to go back to the rescue with God’s Dogs. Brandi expressed disappointment that she won't be able to foster dogs for a while because of the fire. She said over the years, she has helped 138 dogs find forever homes.
"A lot of the trusses are burned out and stuff.” Troy said, looking up at what was left of his ceiling. “Not sure if we're going to be able to rebuild that or not."
Brandi said that members of the community have helped where they can, donating things like feed, and hay as well as taking some of the animals in.
There is a MealTrain page for people to send them meals and her sister has started a gofundme page so people can help them rebuild, but Brandi isn't sure how much that will take.
"I don't know how you rebuild everything that you've worked for all your life."
But she says she's confident that with the help of friends, family, and her community, things will work out in the end.
"It's going to get figured out. I just don't know when or how," Brandi said. "And you know what, we're just taking it day-by-day, and with God on our side and with family and friends and our community, we're going to come back stronger."