11 pets perish, family displaced in Chester house fire

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Chester family is still reeling after a fire broke out inside their home last month, killing all but one of their pets.

The Byrd family tells 8News they were on their way home on Tuesday, Nov. 17, when they learned their home was on fire and all but one of their pets had been killed.

“It ‘was a normal day,” recalled Lana Byrd. She left her home around 2:30 p.m. that day to pick up her sister-in-law from Richmond International Airport.

“We got a text message from a neighbor that said, ‘Lana your house is on fire. It’s not good,'” Byrd said.

A Chester family is still reeling after a fire broke out inside their home last month, killing all but one of their family pets.

Just after 5:30 p.m., an explosion rocked the house. Most of the family pets were located upstairs.

According to Byrd, her neighbor had rescued their cat, ‘Special,’ but told Byrd that a dog didn’t survive. Byrd’s daughter, Taylor, was next to her in the car when she heard the news.

“She was crying so hard the car was moving,” Byrd said.

Both were half an hour away when they found out that ultimately seven dogs and four cats had died from smoke inhalation. Byrd’s other daughter, Jordan, beat them home. Taylor Byrd told 8News her sister had asked animal control representatives if there were any survivors.

“She’s like ‘alive?’ They were like ‘no, gone,'” Taylor Byrd remembered.

Lost in the blaze was Taylor’s dog, ‘Maggie.’ Due to the pandemic, Taylor and her two siblings had returned home from college. Each child had their own pets and stayed together to keep everyone safe.

“We all just lived here like a happy family, while keeping people safe,” Byrd said.

Once the Byrd family returned to the scene of the fire, they found a burned staircase, walls and their belongings destroyed. Burned remnants of their home remain scattered across their first floor.

“It’s one thing for me to go through things and feel the loss but all of my children are so deeply hurt,” Byrd said. “The nightmares, the smell, the sights of the lights and sirens has been very traumatic.”

The family, who moved to Virginia in 2008, tell 8News they’re trying to pick up the pieces and move forward.

“We know that we gave the dogs and our animals a ton of love, so we’re just going to continue to do that and we know that this might be a place of darkness for us but with the community’s support, we know that we’re going to burn brighter than ever,” Taylor Byrd said.

Right before the holidays, the family says they have no home to call their own while also mourning their extended family’s loss. In the interim, the Byrd family will stay at a rental property.

As to what started the fire, the Byrd family told 8News that a forensic specialist has not determined the origin of the blaze.

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