It was the day before Valentine’s Day and both Junior and Renae Biggs were preparing to have surgery. They needed to stock up on pet food and house supplies. After all, they were proud parents to five pit bulls: Kilo, Alexus, Angel, Romeo and Dre.
They locked the house, per usual, and were on their way. After running some errands, Junior and Renae returned home. From the outside, everything seemed normal, but as the Biggs approached the house they could hear their smoke alarms screaming.
After touching the doorknob to gauge the temperature, they unlocked and opened the front door. Junior and Renae were met with a thick, endless black cloud.
“The smoke just bellowed out,” Renae said.
Junior rushed into the smoke while Renae dialed 911. Junior was unable to reach any of the dogs on his first trip in, but after a few attempts, he pulled two of the pups to safety. But it was too late. Romeo and Dre were already gone.
Help arrived and the firefighters worked the flames and pulled the remaining dogs out of the house. EMT’s as well as the Biggs were all performing CPR on the animals. To no avail, they stopped treatment after close to an hour of attempted resuscitation.
All five of their “children” were lost to the fire.
The fire demolished their home and took the animals they had come to call their "kids." It was determined that the source of the fire came from a lamp in the master bedroom. Although the fixture was not on, a shortage caused the blaze.
With all of their belongings being destroyed by the fire, the Biggs had only one concern, their dogs. “You can take the house, we just want our dogs,” Junior said. “Just give us our kids back.”
A Time to Rebuild
In the weeks that followed the fire, the Biggs were forced to relive the tragic night as they sorted through the ashes. Friends and family drove to St. Petersburg to help. Neighbors left stuffed animals and flowers in their yard. Strangers shared words of love and encouragement.
“A whole lot of us died that day,” Renae said. “We didn’t know where we were going after that."
The Biggs were always involved in the pit bull community. Rescue groups and fellow animal lovers rallied around the Biggs to lighten the blow. It was only a matter of time before they wanted to fill the void that had been caused by the fire.
Junior and Renae decided that they needed to start over and with a new beginning would come more “kids.” The two talked on the way to the animal shelter and knew that it was the right thing to do.
“The day that we went to the shelter, I said ‘if the kids want us to, we’ll find the right one,’” said Renae.
They took their time browsing the many homeless pups. The Biggs looked through the kennels separately then reconvened and landed on one, bright female pit bull. Lilly had a bark like Angel, who was lost in the fire. According to Renae, she even looked like her.
Angel was removed from her pen, but not without the disapproval of her rescue mate, Loki. He had been brought in, side by side, with Lilly and let out a howl when she was taken from the pen. There was only one thing the Biggs could do at that point ... take them both.
Both Junior and Renae agreed that taking in two, new pit bulls brought them clarity and peace of mind.
“There are positive things that can come out of this,” said Renae. She believes that educating the community on safety features can prevent fires from starting in other homes.
The reality of the animals’ absence, now known as “The Biggs Five,” is still very much alive in the Biggs’ home.
“I still hear them, running through the house,” Renae said. “I still hear their collars jingling.”
With the efforts of family, friends and a supportive community, the Biggs are hoping to move back into their rebuilt home by June 16, which also happens to be the day of their fundraiser.
On June 16, the Biggs family will be the guests of honor at a charity event being held at Quaker Steak and Lube on 49th St. N. in Clearwater. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go directly toward the restructuring of the home that the Biggs lost, back in February.
If you go:
The charity event will start at 5 p.m. at Quaker Steak and Lube, with celebrity guests Jennifer Holloway (Bay News 9) and Navaho (WiLD 94.1 FM). Local rescue groups will be on hand as well as live bands. There will be raffles, door prizes and a silent auction to raise money for the Biggs. The event is a “humans only” occasion.
For more information about the event, please contact Belinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.