Interlachen family alerted to house fire by barking dogs

by Andy Hall
The Palatka Daily News

Barking dogs took the place of smoke detectors in alerting an Interlachen woman and her daughter to a fire that started in the kitchen of their double-wide mobile home early Tuesday morning, the Putnam County fire marshal said.
The home had no smoke detectors, but the dogs awakened the occupants in time to call 911 -- and firefighters responded in time to limit damage to the kitchen area, according to Fire Marshal Joe Guidry.
"The fire was started by a pan of cooking oil left on the stove," he said Wednesday. "This was the fourth fire that started in a kitchen in six days.
"I think we've had seven (structure fires) so far this month - and this is just the 21st (of May) - and four of them were kitchen fires."
Dispatchers were notified at 5:34 a.m. of the blaze at 128 Caribbean St. The 10-year-old home had been purchased new by Joyce Ward, who had four payments remaining, Guidry said.
"Being that there was a mortgage, there was insurance on it," he noted.
Volunteers from the Interlachen, Interlachen Lakes Estates and West Putnam fire departments responded along with Putnam County Emergency Services Rescue 2, which treated Joyce Ward's daughter, Melissa, for a small burn on her right arm, Guidry said.
Melissa Ward, who is in her early 30s, was the one who called 911 after dogs smelled smoke and awakened her with their barking, Guidry said.
"She took another pan and put it upside-down over the one that was burning on the stove," he said. "The fire got into the hood, vented to the outside wall and got up between the ceiling and the roof."
Firefighters were able to restrict damage to the kitchen-living room area and portions of the roof, according to Guidry, who estimated the damage at $5,000 to the home and $500 to the contents.
"(The firefighters) did an interior attack and wet into the living room-kitchen area, pulled the ceiling tiles down and they were able to get in and stop it," he said. "They did an excellent stop on the fire.
"(The damage) is all repairable."
While grateful the barking dogs got the occupants' attention in time, Guidry didn't consider them an adequate replacement for smoke detectors.
"Smoke detectors save lives," he said.