By Ron VandenBoom
BOX ELDER A late morning fire that ripped through the two-story home of DarCi Hooper Thursday in Box Elder resulted in the death of a true hero a female red heeler named Tuffy.
Hooper said she had just stepped outside to water the horses leaving her 1-year-old son Chase alone in the house with Tuffy.
"I was standing by the garage when my brother started yelling my house was on fire," she said.
Hooper ran back to the house, burst through the kitchen door, and was greeted with a suffocating cloud of thick, blinding, smoke. Dropping to her knees, hoping to escape the worst of the smoke, she tried to crawl her way closer to the room where she had left her son.
Off in the distance she could hear Tuffy's claws scratching on the floor, but she was unable to see Tuffy or her son Chase.
"I called for Chase and then I could hear him crying," she said.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Hooper felt Chase being pushed unexpectedly into her arms by Tuffy.
Hooper grabbed her son and made her way outside.
"My lungs were burning," Hooper said. "The smoke was so thick that I still couldn't see him even after I had him in my arms."
Tuffy did not follow.
Hooper escaped the burning home with only her son, the clothes on their backs, and a butane lighter used to start fires in barbecues and fireplaces still clutched tightly in the fingers of her son.
Beth Lowrey, Hooper's mother, next door neighbor, and owner of the Hooper home, said three strangers stopped and tried to help extinguish the blaze with garden hoses.
"But we didn't have enough water pressure for them to do much good," Lowrey said.
The Rocky Boy, Box Elder, and Big Sandy Volunteer Fire Departments received the call shortly after 11 a.m. with the Rocky Boy crew being the first on the scene.
Randy Solberg, secretary of the Box Elder Volunteer Fire Department, said six pumper trucks, two tender trucks, and about 18 firefighters helped fight the fire with little hope of saving the structure.
Solberg said after the fire got going pretty hot, "we concentrated on preventing it from spreading to surrounding structures until the blaze burned down into the foundation of the home."
Clyent and Beth Lowrey had purchased their own, and the Hooper home, in June, allowing their daughter to live in the neighboring house with the 1-year-old Chase and her 3-year-old son Tyler.
Hooper and Chase were taken to a doctor in Big Sandy where they were found to be in OK condition.
"It was a miracle," Lowrey said. "Not even a single hair was singed."
Lowrey said that mostly they are just thanking God and thanking Tuffy.
"It could have been so much worse," she said.
Hooper echoed Lowrey's words also calling it a miracle.
Hooper is currently staying with her parents in the home next door to the ruined structure while she works to arrange for another home her parents own to be moved to Box Elder.
The only thing Hooper says she needs is clothes for herself.
"People have been real generous bringing clothes for the kids," she said.
Danita Menard of Box Elder has started a fund to help Hooper raise the money needed to have the new home moved onto the property in Box Elder. Anyone wanting to help with the Fire Victims Fund should call Menard at 352-4032.