Dog saves family from fire

October 11, 1999

TotoBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

A persistent dog got a Hagerstown family out of the house before fire ripped through the upper floor on Saturday, but now that family is homeless.

Karen Burnett, 41, sifted through the rubble in front of 312 N. Prospect Street on Monday. A charred Washington Redskins hat poked through buckled and burned drawers that contained a pile of destroyed clothing.

Burnett, who is temporarily staying at the Super 8 Motel in Hagerstown, said she feels lucky no one was hurt in the 3:21 a.m. blaze.


But the family lost their possessions in the fire.

"We got out with what's on our back," she said.

Burnett said she was not feeling well on Friday night when she went to bed. She was awakened in the middle of the night by her dog, Toto.

"I was in bed asleep at the time," she said. "He kept barking and jumping on his hind legs. He got my attention enough to tell my daughter to calm him down."

The dog persisted, and Burnett said she smelled something burning. She followed the dog to her father's bedroom and found fire.

She got her daughter and two sons out of the house while one of the sons called for help on a cell phone. Her father was not at home at the time.

Burnett said she found the dog running in a rainstorm in the middle of Dual Highway in May. She scooped him up and took him home. She said she figured she saved his live that day.

The dog returned the favor on Saturday.

"He saved mine," she said.

The fire gutted the second floor of the two-story duplex. Their half of the first floor was moderately damaged by water, said Assistant Fire Marshal John Hersh.

Hersh said the fire started near a portable heater, although it is unclear whether a short circuit in the heater or the wall ignited the fire.

Burnett said she has gotten help and encouragement from friends and members of her church, King's Apostle Holy Church. She said parishioners put her in touch with the American Red Cross, which put the family up in the motel.

"I didn't even know where to get started. I was so devastated," she said.

Burnett said the family needs clothes and other help until insurance money is available. The sizes include:

* Large women's shirts, size 13 pants and dresses and size 7 1/2 shoes.

* Size 26-28 women's pants and size 9 shoes.

* Extra large men's shirts. Size 34-36 pants and size 11 1/2 shoes.

* Size 32 men's pants. Large shirts and size 9 1/2 shoes.

* Size 42 men's pants. Extra large shirts and size 10 to 10 1/2 shoes.

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