Toni Rogers is still coughing up soot two days later.
“It still hurts some” she says when asked. “But I am so glad Duke woke us up.” Thinking about the alternative still brings tears to her eyes.
“The fireman said if the fire had gone on much longer, we may” … Rogers looking away tears up again. After a string of mishaps, she and her family survived a kitchen stove fire that filled their house with lung burning smoke two nights ago.
A friend of the Rogers family was leaving to see relatives for the holiday. Both families have dogs. Toni loves the Martin family dog Duke. She agreed to care for Duke in her room while the Martins were gone.
Her Father Russ a local carpenter consented. “Duke is just a big kid. He seems to get along with everyone.” Russ was later heard to say. Shellie the smaller collie mix never seems to mind when Duke is around.
“It’s all settled then” Russ told the Martins. “Duke will bunk in with Toni.” “We will see you when you get back. Shelly did not seem to mind. Her routine was to sleep with one of the boys. Duke and Toni would get along just fine.
Russ’s wife Mary a bubbly school teacher was also off for the holiday. She was overseeing the events of the home that would take place over the next few days. Hectic schedules were no challenge for a school teacher.
Mary was thawing frozen food for an upcoming meal on the stove. Several boxes of vegetables rock hard in plastic bags from the freezing they had done that summer. She filled several pots with water, added the boxes, and there it sat. And sat. The family forgot about the pots and eventually went to bed.
Water evaporated. Plastic burned. The family’s home filled with black, lung burning smoke. At 2 in the a.m., Mom, Dad, Kids, the whole family and two dogs slept, as smoke billowed through the house.
Interestingly — the home’s smoke detectors, purchased last fall, full of fresh batteries. Never went off.
So, Duke, the guest in the house jumped on Russ, barking again and again.
Eventually, the barking and jumping woke the whole family.
“I woke up with this dog on me barking and carrying on, I was choking and ‘What the. what’s going on?’” he said.
So, he opened the bedroom door. He couldn’t see a hand an inch in front of him. He gathered the rest of the family and they made their way outside. Duke and Shellie included.
The family opened the windows and got the pets outside. “Shellie normally barks at everything,” Russ said, but not that night. “She was upstairs in a different bedroom when the fire started.”
The Volunteer Fire Company Captain Tom Billings was the first responder on the scene. Billings said there was a moderate amount of smoke in the house by the time he arrived. Fire crews set up ventilation fans and cleared the smoke.
Billings, a firefighter for 15 years, is used to fire calls. But rescues involving hero animals are not so common.
“From the years I’ve been doing this, we’ve had five other reports of animals waking up the residents,” he said.
As firefighters contained the smoke, emergency crews checked the family for smoke inhalation. While she did not want treatment, Toni Rogers is still coughing up soot two weeks later.
The stinky smoke smell lingers in the house. The family is trying incense and candles. Neither one does the job. This week is for clothes-washing, everything still smells like the fire.
The pots are ruined, filled with a gooy mess, giving the family a lesson, they will not forget. The vegetables are thawed but a bit overcooked.
Pictures and framed sayings hang from the home’s walls; the sayings around themes such as warmth and friendship. Above the fireplace, in the living room as you walk inside, too noticeable to ignore: “God is in miracles.”
Duke is back home with the Martins. He now is considered the family hero in the Rogers house. “A bone under the tree next year for him for sure”. Says Toni. “Duke can stay with us anytime.” Say all his grateful friends down the street.
After the fire, Russ replaced the family’s brand-new smoke detectors. “I’m going with a different brand”. “These others went off during the fire, and that was after the fire department arrived.” “Wow!”
Luckily, Russ Rogers had Duke the smoke detector jumping on her chest, barking. He says his chest is still sore. But if feels good to breath… “Thanks Duke”