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Community helps Great Falls couple after pre-wedding house fire

Emily Burns and Garrison Smith
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Posted at 11:59 AM, May 28, 2024

GREAT FALLS — In the final days leading up to what was meant to be the most joyous occasion of their lives, Emily Burns and Garrison Smith faced an unexpected and devastating hurdle: a fire ravaged their home, just a week before their wedding.

Despite the tragedy, the couple has found solace and support in the overwhelming generosity of their community.

A Tragic Turn of Events

The engaged couple had spent a year meticulously planning their wedding, a period marked by excitement and anticipation. However, their preparations were abruptly interrupted when a fire broke out in their home.

Emily Burns and Garrison Smith
Emily Burns and Garrison Smith

Emily recounts the incident with a mix of sorrow and relief:

"You know, being engaged is one of the most exciting things for any person, I think. And to spend a year planning and collecting and getting excited to marry one another and then to have it go up in flames is very... it's tragic. But the biggest thing is that my family is okay. I believe the garage is a total loss. We have a lot of smoke damage in the home. Dayspring Restoration is going to be here for the next couple of months, so we'll be in a hotel until then."

Great Falls Fire Rescue said the cause of the fire was an unattended electric smoker next to the garage.

Quick Response Saves the Day

The fire, which started in the garage, could have resulted in even greater destruction if not for the prompt action of the Great Falls Fire Department.

Garrison expressed his gratitude for their swift response: "Probably the only reason this was contained to just the garage and this exterior area was the quick response of the fire department to absolutely get in and save the entire rest of the house."

Community Support Pours In

In the aftermath of the fire, the couple faced the daunting task of rebuilding their lives and salvaging their wedding plans. Remarkably, they did not have to face this alone. The community's response has been nothing short of extraordinary.

No injuries in overnight fire in Great Falls
Emily Burns surveys fire damage

Emily shared how the support has lifted their spirits during this challenging time:

"I probably have over 60 messages from brides all around Montana offering decor. My sister set up a GoFundMe. People have been Venmoing me. The community has just been incredible. Tracy’s Diner and Jammer's Barbecue is covering our wedding day. Clark and Lewie's, Enbar, and Fire Pizza are also giving us food for the rehearsal dinner."

Hope Amidst the Ashes

Despite the fire, Emily and Garrison remain optimistic about their future. They have even found a way to bring humor into their situation.

Reflecting on the incident, Emily mentioned their nickname for the small wooden bear that greeted people at their door:

"What was his name? We called him Link. Yeah. Now, now it’s Smokey the Bear. I think we are... Yeah, I think we'll put a new welcome sign on him."

Emily and "Link"
Emily and "Link"

Garrison added that they are now focused on the long process of recovery and looking forward to their wedding:

"Now it's just kind of taking the time to sort through it and it's a process just to work through it, really."

If you would like to help, click here to visit the GoFundMe page.