By Meredith Barack

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Northwest Indiana family was planning to go on a dream vacation to Colorado, but it ended in tragedy.

As CBS 2’s Meredith Barack reported Thursday night, the Lawson family hopes their story serves as a warning to others as they travel.

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“We packed up the dogs, the kids – pretty much everything you can think of – and set off on a long, long drive,” said Patti Lawson.

It was the post-Christmas trip the Lawsons had been waiting for. The family from Dyer, Indiana found the perfect Airbnb to stay at in the outskirts of Denver.

“Great place to stay,” Lawson said. “Accepted dogs, which obviously we needed.”

The family took advantage of the snow-tubing and skiing. By their third day there, they were tired and decided to see a movie in Longmont – about half an hour away from where they were staying in Louisville, Colorado.

“It was super windy that day,” Lawson said. “We were joking it was like ‘Wizard of Oz’ winds.”

That’s when they got a call from the owner of their Airbnb, alerting them about what was the beginning of the Marshall Fire.

“He said that he had gone to the rental property, and went to the garage where we were staying because it was like upstairs, and looked in the garage and saw that our car was gone,” Lawson said.

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However, Lawson said the owner didn’t check to see if their dogs, Reggie and Packer, were still inside however. He told Lawson that there was no way they could get back to the rental, but he was confident the fire would be out in a few hours.

“We immediately turned on the news – and by then, it was like something I’ve never seen,” Lawson said.

After hours, Patti and her husband returned to their Airbnb – only to find their dogs’ metal bowl. The Airbnb home had burned down.

“We kind of in our hearts knew that they were gone at that time, because if you see that area, if anything could have survived, it would have been a miracle, basically,” Lawson said.

Lawson says with the help of a volunteer bloodhound group, the remains of Reggie and Packer were eventually found. But she is still questioning whether or not they could have been saved – if only Airbnb could have warned them sooner.

“We received an email from Airbnb four hours after the fire broke out,” Lawson said. “Please just look – can the rentals be hooked to the Emergency Alert System in the area?”

Patti says she is overwhelmed by the support they received from the local community in Colorado, and hope others never underestimate what can happen while on a vacation.

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On Airbnb’s website, they do encourage hosts to sign up for emergency alerts – but not guests.

Meredith Barack