Essex house fire victims seek to rebuild

ESSEX - When a home in Essex burned down last week , a family's two pets didn't make it out alive and police believe a neighbor intentionally set the home on fire.

Now, some pictures, a watch and a few other items are all that remains on the site where the home of Rose Bartko and Cathy Smith once stood. This past weekend, friends and family helped the women remove what's left of their charred belongings. 

"We are so thankful for all the support it just means so much you just don't know how much friends you have," Bartko said.

On Feb. 4, Smith heard an explosion and then saw the smoke.

"The alarms started going off, and the dogs started scampering," Smith said. "All I could try to do was to get them out."

Smith was able to grab one of her dogs by the collar and push her out. But by then her golden retriever Isabella had run upstairs. Smith followed and by the time she caught up with Isabella, her only escape was an upstairs window.

"I tried to lift her and I couldn't lift her," said Smith, who added that the smoke soon became overwhelming. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe anymore. I couldn't get her."

Isabella didn't escape the fire and neither did their Himalayan cat, Franky. Franky is still in the house, somewhere.

Franky and Isabella were as much their children as they were pets, Bartko and Smith said. A loss that's too much to describe. But the support from everyone here gives them strength

And they take comfort in knowing that Franky and Isabella are in a better place.

The neighbor accused of setting the fire is 65-year-old John Mosley Jr. He is charged with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree arson.

Other neighbors and friends are pitching in to help Bartko and Smith. A  GoFundMe page has been set up for them. Donations such as clothes and other household ites are being accepted at the bus lot across from Kenwood high school, located on Stemmers Run Road.

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