HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - You may be familiar with the Facebook group for Lost and Found Pets of Huntsville/Madison County. It helps reunite missing pets with their owners -- they have nearly 13,000 members and 5,000 success stories. They may have helped you find your missing dog or cat over the last few years.
Thursday afternoon, they were headed with their float to the Huntsville Christmas Parade, but had something pretty awful happen on the way there.
Jeananne Jackson, the creator of the group, said someone flicked a cigarette from another car while they were driving in front of Kroger on South Memorial Parkway. Her husband was driving the truck with the float and she was in another vehicle and saw everything happen.
“Somebody flicked a cigarette out and it landed in the straw on our float and burned it to the ground," said Jackson. "My husband was driving and I was driving behind him when I noticed the smoke, and other people did too. Luckily, several people came and helped us unload some of the stuff. We were able to salvage some of it, but the house we worked so hard on, that we were so proud of went up in smoke.”
The cigarette butt landed in the hay bales on their float. Jackson said everything quickly caught fire -- three months of hard work on their elaborate, handmade creation. They had put $1,000 worth of donated materials into the 'Whoville' setup, built for the Dr. Seuss-themed parade.
“We had built a full-sized Who house with lights inside and windows that you could see trees inside. We had a smoking chimney. We worked so hard,” said Jackson.
The Huntsville Fire Department responded to put out the fire. Most of the structure burned. Members were able to save some of the dogs, pigs and other creatures they created that wore custom-made 'Thing' costumes and wigs.
The group was trying to win the cash prize for best float, so they could use that money to pay for more pets to be spayed and neutered.
The group scrambled to get another trailer brought to the parade site, so they could put the items they saved onto it. Group members also dressed in costume, making the best of a bad start.
Supporters have set up a gofundme account to help show appreciation for the group, and to help pay for more spaying and neutering fees.
"Let's join together and show our love and appreciation for this group and all they've done for pet owners and animal lovers in and around Huntsville--we can raise that $300 (and maybe more!) to help them with their goal!" the fund's creator, Kerry Komai wrote.