GAINESVILLE, Texas - A Gainesville police officer and his family lost nearly everything, including their family pet, after a Monday night fire.
But the family is learning they still have each other and the strength of a whole community to help them get through the tough time.
Officer Keith Bartlett is surprised at what didn't burn in the house fire but says what shocked him the most was how the Cooke County community that he has served all these years is now serving him.
In the middle of ash and debris of his destroyed house, Bartlett is finding the little things that mean the most.
"When it burnt out this wall on this side, a box fell out. And it had baby pictures and wedding pictures in it so I'm thankful it's given me some hope,” the officer said.
After fashioning a knife on a blacksmith machine Monday afternoon behind his Cooke County home, he went inside and was about to leave. Seconds later, everything changed.
"The smoke was just covering the ceiling. I opened up the back door. Flames just hit me in the face,” he said. “I came down the hall and banged on my son's door, yelled at everybody to bring them out."
Bartlett managed to save his family, but flames gutted his home and killed the family dog, Chico.
"Looking back had I went ahead and left, my wife would have been trapped in the room. The kids would have been trapped in the hallway. It just spread that fast,” he said. “It's just terrifying what could have happened.”
Before his nearly two years at Gainesville PD, Bartlett was a Cooke County Sheriff's Deputy. He has 14 years of public service, and his community is showing their appreciation. He’s received hundreds of dollars in gift cards, a room full of clothes and lots of prayers.
"I knew people were out there like getting stuff for us,” said Bartlett’s daughter, Carman. “But when we got to the hotel room, I didn't think it was that much stuff."
"Our department went out there, some of the volunteer fire departments. So everybody out there knows everybody,” said Chief Kevin Phillips. “It is tough because you're watching one of your family members suffering through that."
"It's amazing. I didn't realize how many people cared for us, how much they cared for us until this,” Bartlett said. “It's overwhelming, very humbling."
The family is staying at a hotel until they figure out what to do next. A GoFundMe account for the family has already surpassed its $10,000 goal. A donation account has been also set up at the Landmark Bank under the name “Keith or Loretta Bartlett Family Fire.”