News and Tribune

December 20, 2012

Bethlehem family loses home to fire

Woman says she intends to stay on the property to care for pets, rescue animals


BETHLEHEM — The home of a Bethlehem family caught fire Wednesday, and the owner is now looking for a way to take care of her family, including several beloved pets.

Joyce Seal was enjoying the Miss Universe pageant on Wednesday evening with her son while her two grandchildren slept in their bedroom on the second floor of the brick home when an unusual noise got her attention. Her son, Mark Morris, went upstairs to check on the children.

“I thought they got out of bed or something,” Seal said. “Well, he got up there, and they were in their bedroom sleeping, but the master bedroom, my bedroom, was in flames. I mean, it was horrible. It was so hot that it melted stuff in the next room.”

Seal and Morris rushed the children, ages 5 and 9, along with Seal’s four old English mastiffs and two dogs she was fostering on behalf of Southern Indiana Animal Rescue outside as Seal called 911. The New Washington Volunteer Fire Department promptly arrived and doused the fire, but not before the entire second floor of the building was lost to fire and smoke damage.

While the cause of the fire is not yet known, it is believed to be electrical in nature, Seal said.

“My Christmas tree started flashing,” Seal said. “It isn’t supposed to flash.”

Although Seal’s insurance company has not yet sent an adjuster to evaluate the damage, she believes the home is likely a loss. In addition to the damage on the upper level, 2 inches of water remain on the wooden floors of the first level from when the firefighters hosed out the fire. The drywall is cracking and falling from the ceiling.

Despite the fire and the fact that there’s no longer heat or electricity in the house, Seal slept there Wednesday.

“I stayed here. I’m not leaving my dogs,” Seal said.  

Seal — a retiree who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and is supposed to use an oxygen tank to assist her breathing — hopes to find a way to stay on her property so that she can continue to care for the mastiffs and the rescue animals.

“What I’m thinking about is either try and get a FEMA trailer out here temporarily ... or buy an RV,” Seal said. “I don’t want to leave my property. I just don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave my dogs, [but] it’s not realistic to stay in the house long-term, either.”

If you are interested in helping Seal and her family, email