Lacey Layton had unplugged the tree before going to work Friday as a substitute teacher at Charlotte Valley Central School in Davenport, Cheryl Amo, her mother, said Sunday. Amo said she heard that the fire started from an electrical outlet near the tree.
Lacey Layton had lived in the house for about six years and she married Jason a year ago Tuesday, Amo said, and the couple had some insurance. Representatives from the American Red Cross have spoken with the Laytons, Amo said.
Amo said she called the school Friday to let her daughter know about the fire, and Natalie Zimmerman, a relative who works as a secretary at the school, drove Lacey home and dropped off Jasmine, a second-grader, after school.
The Laytons’ house had to be knocked down, officials said.
Layton said after escaping through the front door, he dropped off his son with neighbors across the street and went back for two dogs that still were in the house. After re-entering the front door, he saw that the Christmas tree was blocking access to the kitchen where the two Labradors were in their crates, he said, and he tried to move the tree.
“By that time my eyes were watering, and I was starting to cough,’’ Layton said. “It was time to leave the house. … It was difficult.’’
Layton said he went to a second entrance that led to the kitchen but that door was locked. The Labradors, Sparkle and Zoey, died of smoke inhalation, he said.
On Sunday, Layton attributed his calm reaction in a life-threatening situation to Army experience, including two tours in Afghanistan.
Cheryl Amo said she took Sparkle to Dr. Joan Puritz before starting out for Cornell University veterinary hospital, but the dog’s lungs were too damaged, and she died. The cats that died were Gretchen, Leandra, Collista and Egan, Amo said.