Fire leaves family of five searching for a new home

By Cynthia Prairie

Angie and Greg Picz with the pets that Greg rescued from their burning home on the night of the fire. / photo by Cynthia Prairie

It was dinner time at the Picz home, a chilly April Saturday good for grilling out but eating in. At the grill,  Greg Picz was the first to see the smoke crawling from the basement stairs. He yelled for his wife Angie and their three children to get out of the house – now.

Angie gathered the kids outside, then called 911 from her cell phone.

Nine miles away, Bob Snide and Thelma Dezaine and her 8-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, who live in the adjoining apartment of the duplex, were finishing their dinner at Friendly’s. Their year-old Chinese crested puppy Razz remained at home.

Greg Picz ran into the basement to rescue the family’s pets: dogs Skittles and Sammie and cat Henry. He then joined Angie and the children, and moved the entire brood away from the fire in their car, parking at the Gingerbread Apartments next door.

While it only took minutes, time seemed to a crawl, Angie said on the evening of the fire. Soon, she said, “Flames were coming out of all the back windows.”

“After we got out, I couldn’t get back into the house again,”  Greg said later. “I was having a hard time breathing.”

Chester police officer Paul LaRochelle arrived at the burning duplex and was able to rescue Razz from the Snide-Dezaine side – despite the nips that the small dog attempted to inflict. Flames had not breached the firewall between the apartments.

Chester Fire Chief Harry Goodell said the first call came in from 911 between 6:13 and 6:15 p.m., and when firefighters arrived, he said, light smoke was pouring from the Picz side, then black smoke began spewing from the eaves and gable end. He added that it probably took 25 minutes to bring it under control.

One family is able to stay

The Snide-Dezaine household returned from dinner to find firetrucks and other equipment from Chester, Rockingham, Bellows Falls and Springfield blocking their entrance. They were grateful that their dog had been rescued and were able to re-inhabit their home later that evening.

The Piczes were not so lucky. Although everyone escaped safely and — with the help of Andy Lisai of Lisai’s market – they were able to save hundreds of dollars of just-purchased meats from the basement freezer, they lost everything else.

The evening of the fire, neighbor Jacques Dodier paid for the Piczes to stay at Motel in the Meadow, where owner Pat Budnick hosted them at dinner for two nights. And, Angie said, apartment building owner Greg Chico took the children (a 10-year-old son and two daughters, 12 and 14) to buy them new clothes.

Both Greg and Angie are grateful to everyone who has helped them with money and needed items including their friend David Clark,  the Crown Point Board of Realtors, the Baptist Church in Bellows Falls and Chester-Andover Family Center … “One lady gave a bottle of laundry detergent,” says Angie. In all the turmoil, “I didn’t even think of that.”

Finding a new home difficult

Currently, most of the family is living at the Horseshoe Acres campground on the Chester-Andover Road, where they have a site and a camper. But, since the camper is too small to accommodate the eldest daughter and her school work, she is staying with a friend. And the pets have been dispersed to friends and family as the Piczes look for a new home in Chester.

According to Angie, her family’s main need “is a place to stay. Once we have that – furniture.” But trying to find a place to rent in the Chester-Andover area, so the children can continue at the local schools, has been very difficult, she adds, especially a rental that can accommodate five people.

“Hopefully we can find something soon and get the family back together.”

Editor’s Note: The Piczes did not ask, but if you’d like to help them, please email or call 802-875-2703.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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