After being a firefighter for 10 years, JJ Lyons, from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, knows the heartbreak a house fire can cause on a family’s life—but he didn’t know it firsthand until recently.
Lyons was out in the woods hunting with his family when he received a call with devastating news: his house was on fire. When he returned home with his wife, Jessica, and his 5-year-old daughter, Jilline, there was barely anything to return to. The fire, which started in the basement, had spread throughout the whole house.
To make things even worse, the Lyons’ pet dog and cat were lost in the fire. The family was devastated, and without a home.
“We had no idea what we were going to do or where we were going to go,” Lyons told WNEP.
“We didn’t know [if] we would be OK.”
The only sign of hope was that JJ’s fellow firefighters from the Williamsport Bureau of Fire were on the scene, ready to help their brother.
“I left the woods to find these guys already there to console and to help,” Lyons said.
The firefighters helped comfort the family in the aftermath of the tragedy. It wasn’t the last time the Lyons would rely on the kindness of others to get by.
And the biggest act of kindness came from a complete stranger.
Joe Miller, from the nearby Lewis Township, had also recently faced a loss: his mother died this past year. Miller inherited her house and was tasked with selling it.
Without a buyer, the house has been sitting unused for months, occupied only by a stray cat named Angel.
But then, Miller heard the story of Lyons’s house fire—and realized he was in the perfect place to help him out. So even though he had never met him in his life, he did something incredible:
He donated the house to him.
Miller said it was the least he could do for a family that lost all they had:
“I told JJ that we can’t bring his house back,” Miller told WNEP. “We can’t bring his dog or his cat back.”
“But we could help him this way and it means a lot for us to do that.”
While, yes, he can’t bring his dog or cat back, he did inadvertently get the family a new pet: Angel the cat, who’s staying in the house, keeping them company while they settle in to their new home.
And thanks to the Lyons’s support network, moving in didn’t take long at all—JJ’s fellow firefighters once again showed up to help the family renovate their new home, tearing up the carpets and replacing the furniture.
“This is a brotherhood. This is what we do,” Lyons said. “Guy gets down, everyone comes together. It’s just an unwritten rule of the fire service.”
But of course, he had the most gratitude for Miller, the total stranger who came to their rescue.
“It’s definitely a huge blessing that Mr. Miller reached out to us and offered up his mother’s house,” Lyons said told WNEP.