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Sacramento woman describes loss of dogs, home and precious ashes in fire

Lifelong Northgate resident Priscilla Pruitt, who turns 70 on Monday, lost her two dogs and home to an afternoon fire this week while she was celebrating her birthday early with friends.
Lifelong Northgate resident Priscilla Pruitt, who turns 70 on Monday, lost her two dogs and home to an afternoon fire this week while she was celebrating her birthday early with friends. egarrison@sacbee.com

When Priscilla Pruitt has her 70th birthday on Monday, it won’t be a celebration.

On Wednesday, Pruitt’s house on Potomac Avenue in the Northgate area of Sacramento went up in flames while she was out for an early birthday lunch with two of her friends. She lost the house she owned for 45 years and her two small Lhasa Apsos, Max and Patches.

“While we were at the restaurant, we got the phone call from my friend Helen’s daughter that my house was on fire,” Pruitt said, crying. “We could see the smoke from the McDonald’s on Northgate.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but the house was destroyed. The two dogs were in Pruitt’s bedroom. Pruitt and her husband bought the house after they married in 1970 in order to stay close to her parents and her uncle.

The last few years of Pruitt’s life have been difficult. She lost her mother three years ago in a car accident. Her husband died of lung complications from the same accident a year later. Their ashes were in the house.

Pruitt herself has undergone many surgeries since the accident, including open-heart surgery.

“When I came home from the hospital, (Patches) wouldn’t let anyone around me,” Pruitt said. “She just wanted to protect me.”

Pruitt is staying across the street in the house she grew up in. Her mother left the house to her, and she rents it to a friend, Victoria Garcia. She has lived on Potomac Avenue since she was a year old.

She taught special education students at the Smythe Academy of Arts and Sciences down the street on Northgate Boulevard for 31 years.

Pruitt has two sons, three grandsons, a step-grandaughter and one great-grandson. Both of her sons live in Portland, Ore. One of them, Jason Pruitt, was on his way home to Sacramento on Thursday.

“It’s been a rough few years,” he said. “Those dogs are all she’s had since my dad passed.”

Pruitt said she doesn’t know what she’s going to do next. She said her son wants her to move to Portland with him, but the Northgate neighborhood has been home for her entire life.

Her daughter-in-law set up a website to donate money: Gofund.me/k7clgw.

Sacramento Fire Department crews Wednesday initially tried to extinguish the blaze from inside the home, but firefighters soon evacuated after declaring the structure unsound. They eventually doused the flames from outside but were unable to save the home or dogs.

The Fire Department is investigating the cause.

Fire officials initially reported Wednesday that the blaze occurred on Pruitt’s birthday, but Pruitt said she was celebrating early with her friends.

Call The Bee’s Ellen Garrison at (916) 321-1006.

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