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Hit by tragedy, saved by community

Family gives thanks to West Linn after fire destroys their home


by: ASHLEY ADAMS - Julie Cosner sifts through ashes and damaged clothes at her Oak Grove home that was destroyed by a fire Jan. 7.Sometimes it takes losing everything to realize all that you have.

After losing all of their belongings and a pet dog in a house fire in January, one family has since learned the true meaning of community, support and friendship.

On the evening of Jan. 7, Julie and Rob Cosner headed to bed around 10:30 in their Milwaukie home in the Oak Grove neighborhood. Julie Cosner let their Australian shepherd, Colby, outside, where the 8-year-old pet slept every night. Their other dog, 2-year-old miniature Austrian shepherd Tyson, stayed inside at night.by: SUBMITTED - The Cosners are moving forward after a fire destroyed their home Jan. 7. Pictured, from left, are Colton Cosner, Rob Cosner, Ashley Adams, Julie Cosner and Chase Cosner.

Around 10:50 p.m., Julie Cosner recalls hearing Colby scratching at the back door to get back inside.

“I said, ‘Something’s wrong with him,’ ” Julie Cosner said.

As she headed to the back door, she looked out the window and saw flames on the outside of the stone house near the carport.

“I screamed at Rob,” she said. She then opened the door and Colby came running in. However, Tyson, ran to his safe space, the master bedroom, and hid.

Julie Cosner was able to usher Colby out the front door to safety; however, by the time Rob Cosner was at the front door, the smoke was quickly consuming the home and he couldn’t get back in to search for Tyson.

Luckily, Julie Cosner’s stepsons, 16-year-old Colton and 14-year-old Chase, were staying at their mother’s house in West Linn that night and were safe from harm.

“We don’t even like to think about it. It’s just a blessing they weren’t there,” she said.

The fire happened so fast and spread so quickly the Cosners had no time to think, just to react. There was no grabbing of photos, of keys, of purses or any other memento; getting to safety was the only concern.

Fire crews arrived quickly after the Cosners banged on a neighbor’s door for help.

“It just seemed like the fire went on forever before the fire department showed up,” she said. “You don’t think about anything except getting out.”

As they stood outside watching their smoke- and fire-damaged belongings being tossed out of the house by firefighters into large piles, the Cosners realized they had nothing. Julie Cosner was outside in her pajamas — no shoes, no jacket. Their dog Tyson died in the fire.by: ASHLEY ADAMS -  A fire that started in a carport quickly spread to the Cosners' home. One vehicle was destroyed in the fire and another was damaged by smoke.

Though the official source of the fire has yet to be determined, a metal box containing fireplace ashes that Rob Cosner had placed outside near the carport earlier that night may have caused it. Officials think something may have been blown onto the ash box and ignited or caused a spark to ignite a nearby woodpile. Because they found the fire before it entered the home, the house smoke detectors had not yet gone off.

Around 4 a.m. the Cosners made it to Julie Cosner’s sister’s West Linn home, where they spent the night. After checking into a hotel the next night, the Cosners realized what all they had lost. There was no suitcase, no toothpaste, no toothbrush. Everything had to be purchased again.

Over two weeks, they returned to the 1940s home to work with a restoration crew to conduct an inventory of the house. They had to sort through every last item and record it and its value for insurance purposes. Because of the smoke damage, the contents of the home were an entire loss.

“It was long and hard and horrible,” Julie Cosner said of the process.

However, during that time, the outpouring of support from the West Linn community has overwhelmed the Cosners.

Rob Cosner has been a longtime coach for baseball, basketball and football in the West Linn community, where he lived until marrying Julie Cosner in 2008 and moving to Milwaukie. His sons are also engulfed in the local sports community. Colton Cosner is a sophomore at Horizon Christian School in Tualatin and Chase Cosner is a student at Rosemont Ridge Middle School in West Linn. Julie Cosner also has a 22-year-old daughter, Ashley Adams, who lives in Milwaukie.by: ASHLEY ADAMS - Colby, one of the family's dogs, alerted the Cosners of the fire by scratching at the home's back door.

Rob Cosner used to work at Hometown Sports, a sporting goods store in the Willamette neighborhood. When Kim Pearson, one of the owners, learned of the Cosners’ loss, she and Libby Tolleson and Susanne Nelson went to work collecting clothes, food and gift cards for the family.

As soon as news about the fire spread, Pearson said, calls started pouring in asking what they can do to help.

“They are a great family,” Pearson said of the Cosners. “Their lives revolve around their kids. They are just good people.”

Nelson said, “They are just super-duper giving and so nice and so real and so honest and generous. They are just good people. ... I think Rob would take his shirt off his back for you.”

Nelson said she put herself in the Cosners’ shoes and thought about having to go out and replenish everything.

“We just decided we wanted to try to pull together as a community because Rob gives so much all the time,” Nelson said. “Our hope was just to alleviate any initial financial stress they were feeling. They’ve just been such an integral part of the sports community.”

Pearson said West Linn is a close-knit community and Rob Cosner has coached hundreds if not a thousand kids in the area. She said people she didn’t even know came to Hometown Sports with donations for the Cosners.

“They came over with tons and tons of clothing and cash and gift cards,” Julie Cosner said. “It went on for weeks. It was unbelievable.

“I just need to thank them for their generosity. I don’t even know where to start.”

Though Pearson and Nelson said were not surprised by the piles of donations, the Cosners were.

“You’re with the people with all the sports, but you don’t know how much they care unless tragedy happens,” Julie Cosner said. “We’ve always had a lot of friends in West Linn, but the generosity of people is amazing. People came in droves. People just wanted us to know they care.

“When this happens, you don’t even know what to do. When you have nothing and you need everything, you don’t even know where to start.”

The Cosners’ current and past employers even helped out with donations for the family.

“It’s been overwhelming and it’s been really hard to put into words. Through their support we’ve been able to replace what we needed,” Julie Cosner said.

Though still dealing with abatement, restoration, claims and the rebuilding of their home, the Cosners are now back together under one roof, with their heroic dog, Colby. The Cosners are living in a temporary home in West Linn along Highway 43 while their Milwaukie home is rebuilt.

“That’s really good,” Julie Cosner said. “Now we can focus on rebuilding the home. We can get off the focus of the tragedy and more forward.”by: ASHLEY ADAMS - Colby is tied up to a tree near a pile of debris left after a house fire in the Oak Grove neighborhood in Milwaukie. Colby is credited with saving the family the night of the fire.



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