HUDSON FALLS — Stacey LaValley was sound asleep early Friday, dreaming a dream about seeing family members, when she awoke around 4 a.m. to the smell of smoke.
“I yelled loudly, ‘Something’s burning!’ “ she recalled.
She and her husband, Brian LaValley, opened the door to their second-floor bedroom to a wall of smoke so thick they couldn’t see their daughter’s bedroom across the hall. They grabbed clothes to cover their faces, and struggled through the smoky hallway to find the stairs.
“If you put your hand in front of your face, you couldn’t see it,” she recalled. “I have no idea how we all got out.”
They were able to awaken their 20-year-old daughter, Megan, but they were met with flames in the first-floor living room, near the front door. They charged through to the front porch, where neighbors were starting to gather.
A friend of the family who was living with them, Logan Barcomb, was able to escape and was at the back door when Mrs. LaValley got out.
Three of the four wound up with burns or singed hair, with Brian LaValley suffering the worst. He was hurt when he went back into the house to get the family dog, Colby, who was trapped in their bedroom.
Brian LaValley said he could hear the dog barking, and ran back in through the flames to the bedroom. But as he came back down the stairs, he became dizzy and collapsed, releasing the dog for it to run down the stairs.
“I was overwhelmed,” he said, tears welling in his eyes.
Seconds later, though, Colby ran back up the stairs to him, and with a burst of energy, the two made it down and through the burning first floor.
Brian LaValley wound up with significant facial burns that were still red and raw Monday.
“He was just as much my hero as I was his,” Brian LaValley said.
The LaValleys returned to the home Monday to meet with insurance adjusters, and to return clothes and blankets that neighbors gave them early Friday as they fled the burning house in little more than their underwear.
They wept on-and-off as they recounted narrowly getting out of the burning John Street home, and the mementos that they lost, such as a small statue that belonged to Stacey LaValley’s father.
A number of benefits have been organized for the family. A dinner with music and raffles will be held at the Boar’s Nest in Fort Ann on Dec. 9, and an online fundraiser is ongoing at www.gofundme.com/bxpyv-family-house-fire.
As she talked with a neighbor whose house was damaged by the fire, Stacey LaValley lamented not her own tribulations, but those of the neighbors and people who have helped the family with clothes and other items. The family is staying with friends, nine people in one home, until they can find a better spot.
“I can’t stand how it’s affecting everybody else,” she said.
“In my mind, I keep thinking about, ‘How am I going to pay this forward?” Brian LaValley said.
They do plan to rebuild at the site, which was Stacey LaValley’s childhood home. The LaValleys are parents of three adult children, two of them currently in the military.
The family had a smoke detector in the home, but had taken the battery out because it was being triggered by cooking mishaps.
The fire is believed to have started on or around a futon near the front door, but both the LaValleys and Washington County fire investigators are at a loss to say how it started. Brian LaValley said he occasionally smokes, but not inside the house.
Stacey LaValley said there was a curio cabinet next to the futon, and an electrical outlet next to the cabinet.
Washington County Fire Coordinator Glenn Bristol said his office had no new information in the case as of Monday, pending the final report from investigators.
Fire investigators have brought in Hudson Falls Police and State Police to assist with the case.
Hudson Falls Police Detective Scott Gillis said police have found no indication anyone inside the home was responsible for the fire, or that the LaValleys had anyone targeting them.