Community collects donations for volunteer FF who lost home, 6 pets in fire

Volunteer Firefighter Joe Lott, who has volunteered with two Georgia fire departments for 15 years, was helping with tornado cleanup when his house caught fire

Jonathan Vickery
The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.

BARNWELL COUNTY, Ga. — Joe Lott has helped many people over the years as a volunteer firefighter. Now it's the community's time to help him after a fire destroyed his home and killed his pets.

Lott, who is a Barnwell County Public Works employee, was supposed to be off on Monday, April 13, but he got called in to help with clean-up efforts after five tornadoes scattered debris across the county. He left his pets in his Olar home, which was without electricity due to the storm, and reported to work.

It was during this time that he received word that his own house had caught fire. Firefighters believe a power surge caused the fire after power was restored to the home.

While he lost most of his material possessions, his first thought after receiving the call about the fire was about his pets.

"They were the only things I was worried about," he said.

Unfortunately, his three cats (Crazy, Buttons, and Biggin) and three dogs (Cesar, Riley, and Bella) did not survive.

He is grateful to a young firefighter who recovered the bodies of his pets and buried them for him.

Donations have started coming in to help Lott rebuild since he didn't have insurance.

He said he has more than enough clothing donations. He plans to donate any he can't use to others in need and encourages people wanting to donate clothes to help other people instead since so many were affected by recent tornadoes.

Friend Sandy Wizorek has set up a GoFundMe account where people can donate online. Donations can be made by searching for "New Home and Land Clean Up" page at

"He is the kind of person that always helps others without question, no matter the time or what it might cost him in return. I know that we can band together and make his pain and struggle much easier to deal with," said Wizorek on the GoFundMe page.

Barnwell County is also accepting monetary donations to help Lott. Contact Barnwell County Business Manager Debbie Fickling at (803) 541-1047 to make a donation.

He is grateful for the support, but was especially touched by a 10-year-old boy who donated his birthday money ($2) and a gold Big Mac coin from McDonald's.

"For someone that young to take his own money and give it to someone he didn't know really means a lot to me," said Lott.

In the midst of his own loss, Lott continues to help people by responding to fire calls.

"I agreed to help people in need and that's what I'm going to do," said Lott, who has volunteered with the Olar and Govan fire departments for 15 years.

He is currently staying with family until he can afford to clean up his land and buy another mobile home.


©2020 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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