Beside the home where he used to live — now a crumbling shell of cinders — Frank Chilli leaned against a car, thumbing his smart phone.
Swiping through photos on the device, he found a picture of his motorcycle. He bought it last week, he said. Now, it was a pile of blackened pistons and gears on the porch. And that charred husk of a laptop over there in the grass? That was also new.
He swiped again to reveal a photo of a pitbull puppy. The man’s eyes welled up with tears. He wiped at his face with the sleeve of his shirt.
“All this other stuff, it can be replaced,” Chilli said. “Lex was all I had.”
The 8-week old puppy, Lex Luthor, perished in the blaze at 2503 Gillsville Highway, which occurred around 3:45 a.m. Thursday. The fire also caused more than $100,000 in damage at the 1,500-square-foot home, according to Deputy Fire Chief Chad Black of Hall County Fire Services.
Black said investigators ruled the fire accidental but did not yet know the exact cause. He said when crews arrived in the early morning hours there was “heavy fire showing, with already about 80 percent involvement.”
Chilli, who rented the home, said he had no idea what could have caused the fire.
“I’ve never had any issues before,” said Chilli, who left his home around 1 a.m. Thursday to give a friend a ride. “I just don’t have any idea.”
As Chilli stood beside his car Thursday afternoon, an investigator approached and asked if he’d please follow him. The two walked together toward the house, where Chilli paused to watch them remove his pet’s body from the premises.
Chilli turned away as the investigator buried Lex Luthor in the backyard. The man walked back to his car. He opened the door and slumped in the seat with a tired moan.
Taking out his phone again, Chilli found another photo of the dog and shook his head. He said he could find no comfort in anything that had happened in the last 12 hours.
“This is just terrible,” he said. “There’s no reason for any of this.”
Chilli said he hoped he could find another pet companion to replace the pitbull.