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Support for military couple who lost home to fire

FLORIDA -- A community is coming together to help a local military couple whose home was heavily damaged by fire in Duanesburg last Thursday night.  Smoke was seen pouring from the home; the fire inside killed their two dogs.  Servicewoman Jill Montesano just recently returned home from a 10-month deployment overseas.

People have already been working to collect clothes, or anything that can bring some normalcy back to the lives of Jake and Jill Montesano.  At last check, an online fundraiser has already received $42,000 in pledges -- in just three days.  Some nearby decided they wanted to do something more.

"It just breaks my heart over what happened," said Nancy Hoyt.

But this community is working to mend the hearts of Jake and Jill Montesano, without a home at one of the toughest times of the year.

"It's two days before Christmas," Hoyt said.  "A lot of people don't have a lot of money to dish out but to have them come through and just give whatever they can, it means a lot."

Everything that's raised from this pancake dinner -- it's $7.00 per person -- will go right to the Montesanos.  The folks at the South 30 Diner came up with the idea over the weekend and heard from people who wanted to help already.

"A couple people stopped by and made donations, we said we'd better do it fast," said diner owner Anita Altieri.

Lost in the flames, the couple's two dogs.  "The loss of the two animals is tragic, because they were just like their children," said Dave Davis.

Especially considered among those hoping to help, the sacrifice Jake and Jill gave.  Jake served two overseas tours.  Jill was already planning a return trip home to surprise her family.  But, with the help of some friends back home, she got an earlier flight to help pick up the pieces.

"These people served to protect us it's time for us to come together and help them out," Hoyt said.

Friends tell us most of what was in the home is gone.  They're hoping this Christmas, others can fill the void created by something so terrible.  "They've lost it all," Hoyt said.  "They don't know which way to turn."

Investigators believe the cause of the fire was accidental in nature.