Tempe family loses home, 3 dogs to huge fire

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

TEMPE -- Smoldering ruins are all that's left of a Tempe home after it went up in flames Thursday afternoon.

Flames and billowing black smoke were visible for quite some distance. The family lost everything, including some of their pets.

Investigators were on the scene near Guadalupe and Rural roads into the evening hours. Crews have put a fence around the property as a safety precaution.

Chris Medina, who lives in the area, didn't realize it was a home that was burning.

"I actually thought it was the Albertson's because there was a big cloud of smoke," he said. "I thought it was a bigger building."

According to the Tempe Fire Department, a police officer saw the fire and rushed over to help.

A couple was asleep inside the burning home. Their two kids were at school.

"They were able to wake those occupants and get them out of the house," said Mike Reichling of the Tempe Fire Department.

Left behind, however, were the family's dogs. The husband actually tried to get back inside.

"They were very concerned with the animals," Reichling said. "They were trying to go back in and he was screaming that one of them was still in the house."

It took about an hour to douse the flames, but once the fire was out and investigators were able to get inside what was left of the home, they found three of the dogs dead. A fourth was treated and is expected to be just fine. A fifth was rescued, as well.

"People are very attached to their animals, but we discourage them from doing that [going back into a burning building] at all cost," Reichling said. "One or two whiffs of this very toxic smoke can put you down and [you] become a victim."

While the neighbors' homes were not in danger, they were concerned by loud pops they kept hearing.

"There were some small explosions going on while crews were inside," Reichling explained. "That's most likely aerosol cans, pressurized spray cans. They give off a pretty good loud boom, and also ammunition pops off."

The husband said he and his wife are physically OK, but stunned by what's happened.

Investigators believe the fire started somewhere near the back patio, but they're not yet sure what sparked it. They have, however, ruled out arson, and believe the fire was accidental.

A forensics fire unit is expected on Monday.