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Woman thankful for strangers who saved her and her dogs from house fire

St. Anthony

ST. ANTHONY — A woman and her three dogs are safe thanks to people who came to her rescue as a fire ripped through her home.

“Everybody in this community has come to my aid and helped me so much and I am so grateful to those people,” said Anette Zollinger, who lost part of her home. “This community is very special. They take care of their own.”

The fire happened on Feb. 10 on the 400 block of North 4th West in St. Anthony near Henry’s Fork Elementary.

the fire
Fire scene at Zollinger’s home. | Courtesy Cassie Mortenson

“I was just sitting in my chair watching TV with my dogs and a woman came in the front of my house and was banging on my door. I kind of waved at her and she barged in my house and said, ‘You have a fire!’ and I said, ‘No I don’t’ and she said, ‘Honey, yes you do,’” Zollinger explained.

RELATED: UPDATE: Investigators working to determine cause of house fire

With the help of the woman and others who stopped, Zollinger made it out of the home with her cane, wheelchair and dogs.

Zollinger and her dogs
Anette Zollinger and her three dogs. | Courtesy Cassie Mortenson

“It was kind of surreal like this isn’t happening,” she said. “I sat there and watched when the fire trucks came up and got the fire out. It was just shocking to see the flames come over the back of the house.”

Zollinger told EastIdahoNews.com her roof is destroyed and the ceiling in her kitchen and living room caved in. Fortunately, the doors to three bedrooms were shut to keep the flames from spreading.

“Thanks to that, the fire did not get into my bedroom. So I am going to be able to salvage the furniture and my clothes. I think I just have smoke damage in those rooms so that’s kind of a blessing in itself that the whole house didn’t go,” she said.

She lost sentimental items that meant a lot to her including her grandmother’s crocheted blankets and beautiful Rocky Mountain Elk pictures signed by the artist. She also lost her late husband’s plant.

“I have been nurturing a plant that was from my husband’s funeral 13 years ago. It hadn’t bloomed in years and … it was just getting ready to bloom. That made me sick because I have been trying so hard to keep that plant alive because that was my husband’s,” she said.

Zollinger additionally lost a new stove that was replaced in her home thanks to a gift from an anonymous Secret Santa in 2020. EastIdahoNews.com delivered money to help her upgrade appliances and buy groceries.

The Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to investigate the fire and officials said the cause of the fire was due to a discarded cigarette that ignited inside of a potted plant container.

Zollinger said that isn’t what she believed happened and her daughter, Cassie Mortenson, provided an explanation.

“Since faulty wiring was not found to be a reason for the cause of the fire, despite some questionable outlets on the back wall where the fire was, I would like to clarify what was determined to be the cause,” Mortenson said. “She put her cigarette out on her back patio in a heavy metal ashtray with a beanbag bottom, not in a pot of soil. In fact, a pot of soil was approximately ten feet away from where she always sat. It’s possible it was the result of a stray ash, although she always took care to put out her cigarettes safely. She did have a gas can, propane grill, partially empty plastic bucket, unopened bags of soil and carpet on her back patio.”

Mortenson said this is an unfortunate accident and her family is very grateful to everyone who helped.

“My mom told me that some ladies helped her out of the fire…We are eternally grateful for their brave actions,” Mortenson said. “They truly are heroes…We are also very thankful for the heroic services rendered by all of the St. Anthony Police Department, the EMTs and the St. Anthony and Rexburg Fire Departments.”

Zollinger is staying at a hotel with her dogs as her insurance takes care of her home. In the meantime, she is looking for a place to rent. Mortenson has set up a Venmo account for people to make donations to her mom. You can find it here: @Anette-Zollinger

the house
Zollinger’s house. | Courtesy Anette Zollinger
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