Tania R. Barber’s closed door, and her dog, Charlie, may have saved her life Thursday after a fire ripped through her Whiteford home, rendering it “a total loss,” the Office of the State Fire Marshal said.
That afternoon, Barber was asleep in the bedroom of her home in the 4500 block of Flintville Road in Whiteford when Charlie woke her up and alerted her to the fire. She had time to escape, but Charlie died in the blaze. Investigators said the dog, and Barber’s closed door, made all the difference.
Senior Deputy Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire said Barber woke up to Charlie, a 5-year-old German shepherd mix, nudging her in bed and saw smoke curling above her door. She opened it and was immediately met with smoke and saw a fire in the corner of her living room. She wrapped herself in a blanket, Alkire said, and made her way outside, trying to get Charlie to come with her to the door.
“As she turned, she’s trying to grab Charlie, and he bolts back in,” Alkire said. “She calls for him numerous times to no avail.”
A passerby and Barber’s family, who live next door, saw smoke coming from the home. Barber made the call to 911 at approximately 5:15 p.m.
The fire gutted the manufactured home, causing $75,000 in structure damage and $25,000 of damage to the home’s contents, per a news release from the fire marshal’s office. The home did not have fire or smoke alarms, and the blaze took 20 minutes to control.
The office stressed the need for citizens to install smoke alarms and have a fire-escape plan ready.
Barber sustained a minor burn and refused transport. Her 20-year-old daughter was not home when the fire sparked in the home’s living room, and no other injuries were reported. The Barber and her daughter are staying with family.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Alkire said the office “cannot rule out an electrical event with a space heater," as contributing to the fire.
Alkire said Barber did the right thing by staying outside the house, though she wanted to go after the dog. Though it is a sad story, Alkire said, Charlie’s warning kept a bad situation from becoming worse.
“Charlie is a hero,” he said.