An elderly St. Clair couple lost everything after a fire destroyed their home on Highway 30 near the St. Clair Saddle Club Saturday.
Leo Willard and his wife Dorothy escaped the blaze with the clothes on their backs. The Willards have lived in the home since 1974.
According to Public Information Officer Dan Cooley of the St. Clair Fire Protection District, the story-and-a-half house was fully involved when firefighters arrived. The call came in about 2:50 p.m.
The blaze quickly went to a second alarm fire to gain more water and manpower on scene.
The crews went to a defensive attack as the fire had overtaken the residence.
Crews were able to place the alarm under control in about an hour, but Highway 30 was temporarily shut down while firefighters worked the fire.
The cause of the fire was deemed accidental and no injuries to fire personnel; however, Willard said he thinks the fire was set deliberately.
“The fire started right in front of a window down in the basement,” he said. “There is no electricity or anything down there that could have started that fire in the basement.”
Willard said his wife was sleeping when the fire started and his son was in the motor home next to the house.
“(Kenny) heard glass shatter,” Willard said. “He got out (of the motor home) to see what was going on and saw the house was on fire.”
Although the Willards were able to safely escape without injury, they lost their Chi hau hau dog in the fire.
Willard, 91, is a World War II and Korean War veteran. He and Dorothy have been married 69 years.
The Willards had no insurance, but the community is already rallying to help.
Several local service organizations of which Willard is a longtime member are already planning to donate money to the Willards.
Willard’s granddaughter, Samantha Ray, is asking people to donate clothing, toiletries and other items to the Willards to help them get back on their feet.
She said Willard always likes to wear bib overalls and wears a size 30 x 30 in them. He wears medium to large T-shirts and a size 13 shoe. Dorothy wears extra large shirts and pants and likes sweat pants or elastic waist pants. Her shoe size is 11 wide.
Other male relatives in the house also need clothing. They wear pants sizes 32 x 34, or 34 x 34. Shoe sizes are 13 and 10.
Relatives are currently seeking a drop-off point for donations, but people may call Robbin Willard at 636-584-2303 to make arrangements to drop off items.
A Go Fund Me page also has been set up by relatives. To access the page, visit https://www.gofundme.com/emergency-fund-4-leo-dot-willard.