Rachael Ray Talks Final Moments Before Fire Destroyed Her NY Home
15th September 2020

Rachael Ray is still recovering after a house fire on Aug. 9 destroyed her home in Lake Luzerne, New York. ET’s Kevin Frazier spoke to the celebrity chef on Monday as she launched the 15th season of her CBS daytime talk show, The Rachael Ray Show, and she talked about the terrifying experience.

Thankfully, Ray and her husband, John Cusimano, were not harmed in the fire — which started after an animal buried inside their chimney — although they were at home at the time. They were able to make it out safely due to a man who came through their backyard screaming that their roof was on fire.

“It was just a shock when it actually happened,” Ray recalls. “I mean, you can’t imagine it. Our house is only 15 years old and we have our chimney cleaned twice a year. And literally it was just the chimney … and then the whole house literally burned down. I think initially we were just in shock. We listened to our first responders and we left with the clothes on our back and the flip-flops and Ugg shoes on our feet.”

“Basically the fireplace burped, and when it burped onto the roof, the roof lit and just the way the day was and the weather, it just went up in kind of no time, but it burned for a long time,” she continues. “It caught again the next day for a short time. And I was just happy that the wind didn’t take it down the hill. My mom lives directly across the street in this little house.”

Ray recalled the moments after she realized the house was on fire, and she tried to run up to the top of the stairs to save a few personal items like medicines and her mother’s high school ring.

“I could hear the fire going through the wall,” she recalls. “I could hear the electricity catching. I could hear it crackling. And I just thought, ‘I have to go. I have to go.’ The second I turned around there was a first responder right in my face screaming, ‘Let’s go, let’s go,’ and he guided me back downstairs and I was passing John, he was trying to go up to do the same thing. He ran past me and into the room and thought immediately the same thing. He’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I hear the fire, it’s in the wall. We got to go.’ I left in flip-flops. We had the same clothes for a couple of days and we literally stood across the street and watched the whole house burn.”

Ray and her husband were able to move into a one-bedroom house across from the street where they used to live. She shared that it’s been painful watching them take down their home, not to mention losing all of her priceless mementos, like handwritten letters from her mom.

“We’ve got a bird’s eye view, which is good and bad,” she explains. “It’s a double-edged sword because we see all of it coming down, literally being bulldozed and excavated and removed. So, it’s kind of like a daily dose that we get here. I see things that look like they are coming out of a Transformer movie going up my hill and knocking down my life and I drew that house. … I doodled it on a piece of paper, how I wanted that house to be. Everything in it we collected over the course of the last 20 years together. But, it’s stuff, you know? If you have your life, you can move forward and create new things and new visions.”  

She and her husband are eternally grateful to the first responders who helped them, and despite the devastation, the couple does see a silver lining to the experience.

“Honestly, we watch everything that is going on in the country right now and how many people are struggling and we just feel more respect, more empathy,” Ray notes. “Honestly, this is making us our best selves in a weird way. It brings us closer to the people that share their time with us in their day and it certainly brings us closer to our humanity and our humility and taking enough time in each day to be truly grateful.”

Ray took her viewers inside all the damage on Monday’s season premiere of The Rachael Ray Show, and she acknowledged to ET that it wasn’t easy stepping back into what used to be her home and showing personal footage of the aftermath. She called the experience “surreal,” and pointed out what people can learn from it.

“It teaches me to keep doing that work and to explain to people there is no one type of home, there is no place that you can safeguard 100 percent and that you have to take it very seriously to always be prepared,” she shares. “What are you gonna do if this happens to you? Listen immediately and question nothing from any first responder that’s trying to help you. It’s your duty to listen, not to save stuff and things and phones and computers and scrapbooks… you can’t have a scrapbook if you’re no longer, you know, living.”

The only part of Ray’s home that survived the fire is the garage and her husband’s studio above the garage, which is a separate structure. She said while her and her family get emotional at times, generally, they’ve been staying positive while they rebuild their home.

“You know, work helps,” she says. “There’s nothing better to help move you forward than to have work, you know, so that’s the thing I think that’s keeping us all going right now. … I’ve stuck with my Italian lessons which I take on Zoom. Even the week my house burned, I tried to keep my Italian lessons, you know? We’re trying to find things to look forward to and to motivate us.”

She has also appreciated all the kind notes from fans around the world, and of course, still getting to do what she loves — cooking with others.

“The first thing that really made my spirits lift and kind of snapped me out of what had happened and kind of the shock of it was doing a kids cook-along camp this summer,” she shares. “It was the first thing we did after the house burned, we did the second half of the kids cooking camp. I opened it and then I did the closing day of camp. And that really lifts your spirits when you see young people in the kitchen and they’re so brave and fearless and funny and we had, I think, 10,000 people Zooming with us from all over the planet cooking along.”

“You know, that was really kind of the tide turning for me,” she continues. “It snapped me out of it. It was like, ‘Oh, OK. This is gonna be OK now. It’s gonna be fine.'”

The Rachael Ray Show airs weekdays on CBS. Check your local listings.

To see Ray show the shocking aftermath of the fire, watch the video below.

Rachael Ray Shares Footage of Her Home Following Shocking Fire

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