A local dog got TV time last Friday as the poster child for National Pet Fire Safety Day with Anaheim Fire & Rescue officials saying she is lucky to be alive today.
Fiona was in the kitchen of “mom” Amber Cooper’s Anaheim home in March with her bed and her bone when for some unknown reason the garbage disposal under the sink went haywire and caught fire.
Amber, a fifth-grade teacher, was at Handy Elementary School in Orange when it happened. Luckily, she pays for a monitored security system tied to her smoke alarms.
More than 2,400 miles away, in Rochester, N.Y., an ADT dispatcher named Dave Tompkins got the “smoke signal,” so to speak, and jumped into action.
He called Amber’s home number. No answer. So he phoned Anaheim Fire & Rescue.
Fire Capt. Dan Lecon dispatched a crew to Cooper’s house: Firefighter P.J. Jones, Firefighter Lamont Montgomery and Engineer Frank Medina. Arriving at the house they smelled a burning odor and kicked in the front door.
Once inside the smoke-filled house they opened the back door and Fiona ran into the fenced-in yard while they extinguished the flames.
When Amber arrived home (after getting a call from the superintendent’s office that her house was on fire), she ran straight to Fiona, and found her covered in soot and looking scared.
“I just hugged her,” she says.
Lecon says that had there not been working smoke detectors, little Fiona probably wouldn’t be alive today.
“Within another 20 minutes the whole house would have been destroyed,” he says.
TV cameras were invited to meet Fiona on Friday because it was National Pet Fire Safety Day. ADT officials flew in to take part in ADT’s Life Saver media event.
“We want to recognize the brave men and women of Anaheim Fire & Rescue,” ADT vice president of marketing Jay Robertson told a small crowd gathered in front of Cooper’s house. “These guys are truly everyday heroes. Fiona’s life was saved by the fire department.”
At this proclamation, Fiona barked, getting a few chuckles.
Peterson then presented the department with a check for $10,000 as part of ADT’s Life Saver award.
“This is a very, very generous donation,” Anaheim Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Rusty Coffelt told those standing on the lawn and sidewalk.
The money will help further “community risk reduction efforts,” he said.
Coffelt said he could not overstate the importance of smoke alarms. “This is a great example of how an entire system works together.”
Every 90 seconds a home fire starts somewhere in the nation, he said. And every two and a half hours there is a death related to a home fire. In addition, 500,000 pets are impacted by home fires annually across the country.
Amber held Fiona in her arms to do an interview with Channel 7. “This is my best friend Fiona,” she told the cameras.
A Yorkshire Terrier mix, she was adopted by Amber in 2009 and is now about 8 years old.
“She’s very protective of me,” Amber says. “She’s sweet. She likes people cuddling.”
Tompkins, the Rochester dispatcher who alerted the first responders, flew in for the event. Applause broke out when he got out of his company van and walked up the sidewalk to hug Amber.
“Thank you so much,” she told him.
Tips from the National Volunteer Fire Council to keep pets safe:
Extinguish Open Flames – Pets are generally curious and will investigate cooking appliances, candles, or even a fire in your fireplace. Ensure your pet is not left unattended around an open flame and make sure to thoroughly extinguish any open flame before leaving your home.
Pet Proof the Home – Take a walk around your home and look for areas where pets might start fires inadvertently, such as the stove knobs, loose wires, and other potential hazards.
Secure Young Pets – Especially with young puppies, keep them confined away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home.
Keep Pets Near Entrances – When leaving pets home alone, keep them in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.
Practice Escape Routes with Pets – Keep collars and leashes at the ready in case you have to evacuate quickly with your pet or firefighters need to rescue your pet.
Affix a Pet Alert Window Cling – Write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets.
Keep Your Information Updated – Firefighters are familiar with pet alert window clings so keep the number of pets listed on them updated. Knowing the accurate number of pets in the house aids rescuers in finding all of your pets and provides important information so that firefighters do not put themselves or others in danger when rescuing pets.