January 25, 2013

Family dog saves Newport family from Friday fire that destroyed home

Labrador retriever jumps on bed, wakes Gilbert and Gertrude Andrews

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

NEWPORT -- A chocolate Labrador retriever named Ben saved his owners from their burning home on Elm Street early Friday morning.

click image to enlarge

No injuries were reported but a fire destroyed an Elm Street home in Newport early Friday morning.

Staff photo by Rachel Ohm

The 2-year-old dog, which is deaf, according to his owner Gertrude Andrews, jumped onto the bed where Andrews and her husband were sleeping.

"I don't know how he knew. Maybe it was intuition or the smell of the smoke. All I know is he woke us up," said Andrews, 52.

She said she and her husband, Gilbert, had gone to bed around 9:30 p.m. Thursday and didn't hear the smoke alarms going off until the dog came in.

"He's my little hero," said Gilbert Andrews, 54.

"We immediately got out of the house and called the fire department," Gertrude Andrews said.

Lt. Adam Noyes, of the Newport Fire Department, said the call came in at 2:37 a.m. Pittsfield firefighters were the first to arrive, because the Newport firefighters were at a fire in the neighboring town of Stetson, which they had been helping to fight since around 1 a.m.

That fire was also large, with flames coming out of the roof of the home, he said.

Noyes said the Pittsfield firefighters arrived at the Elm Street fire within minutes and Newport firefighters arrived shortly afterward. By the time they arrived, though, the roof had collapsed and the house was full of heavy smoke, he said. The blaze took fire departments from five towns nearly five hours to put out, he said.

Firefighters from Corinna, Detroit and Dexter also responded.

"It was very stubborn, and we were actively fighting it for a long time," said Noyes. "The cold temperature and the fact that it was an older house with several false walls also made things difficult."

Gilbert Andrews said the house dates to around 1889 and included multiple additions. He and his wife have lived there for 13 years. He said firefighters were able to tear down a shed that connects the main house to a barn in back and save the barn, although the house is a total loss, according to Noyes.

Tom Gray, who lives next door to the Andrewses, said the fire woke up the whole neighborhood. He said Gilbert Andrews knocked on his door for help around 2:45.

"I jumped out of bed and ran into their house. I wanted to make sure everyone was out, and I didn't see the fire right away, just a lot of smoke," Gray said.

On Friday afternoon Noyes said the fire's cause had yet to be determined and was being investigated by the state fire marshal. Most of the damage was in the back of the house, where the kitchen was, he said.

Gilbert Andrews said the family was staying in a hotel provided for them by the Red Cross on Friday. He said that although no one was hurt, they hadn't been able to save any of their belongings in the house. They do have insurance.

Ben was resting in the back of the car. Gertrude Andrews said he is more than half-deaf. He has had his left ear drum removed and has polyps obstructing his right ear.

"He's a pretty good dog. I keep telling him he's a good boy, but he doesn't hear," Gertrude Andrews said.

Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com

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