Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 22, 2017

Dog alerts couple in burning house

By Andy Hallman | Nov 12, 2012


Washington residents Kyle and Jenny Mitchell were awoken at 5 a.m. this morning by a knock on their door. Standing in front of them was Jennifer Ehlts, their neighbor, who was there to tell them their house was on fire.

The Washington Fire Department arrived and put out the fire in about 10 minutes. After the smoke had cleared, the Mitchells could see the damage to the house was significant enough that they have decided to move out of the rental home.

Although one room sustained significant fire damage, nobody was injured in the fire, thanks in large part to Ehlts’s dog, Zeus. Zeus stays outside at night and could smell the smoke coming from the Mitchells’ house, which is at 431 E. Madison Street. Zeus barked loud enough to wake up his owner, Ehlts, who then woke up her daughter.

“My daughter called 911 while I went over to wake them up,” Ehlts said. “They (the Mitchells) didn’t know there was smoke in the house. They weren’t even coherent. I told them, ‘Your house is on fire and you need to get out!’”

The sun had not yet risen by this time of the morning but Ehlts could still see the smoke.

Kyle said he wasn’t aware of the fire when he answered the door that morning. It was not until he opened the interior door that led to the dining room that he could see the fire in the ceiling. He and Jenny got out of the house as fast as they could, taking their Chihuahua with them. However, the dog ran away, and was still missing as of 10 a.m. this morning.

Washington Fire Chief Tom Wide said the fire was caused by overloaded electrical circuits.

“The wiring was producing heat, and it was not designed for the kind of load they had on there,” he said. “The wiring started the rafters and the insulation on fire. The wiring had probably been getting overheated for awhile.”

Kyle said that a breaker was tripped Sunday night, causing some of the lights in the house to turn off. He didn’t think anything of it, and planned to wait until morning to tell the landlord the lights weren’t working.

The Mitchells had a working smoke detector in their home but it did not sound until after the firefighters arrived. Wide said this was probably because the smoke was initially confined to the attic.

The fire was confined to the attic above the dining room. It destroyed the recessed ceiling in that room but left most of the Mitchells’ valuables unharmed. Kyle said they did lose a microwave in the fire. He said he and Jenny plan to spend the night at his parents’ house. His main concern now is finding his dog.

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