Phoenix family loses home, dog in overnight fire

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Members of a Phoenix family lost their home and dog in an overnight fire Thursday.

The fire broke out around 5:30 a.m. at the home near 31st and Grovers avenues.

A neighbor called 911. Those who saw the fire described the flames as shooting 30 to 50 feet in the air.

Luckily, no one was home when the fire broke out. Leslie Hiner and her family stayed at her twin sister's house after celebrating New Year's Eve.

Firefighters say at that time of the morning, people are usually sleeping, especially after New Year's Eve. So at first, fire crews thought someone was inside, and they went in for a rescue. When they realized no one was home, they worked from outside to control the flames.

The home was a total loss. But family members were allowed back in a few hours later to retrieve whatever belongings they could salvage.

They found their dog, Keller, dead under the kitchen table.

"We're all so heartbroken," Hiner said. "She was there when my daughter was born."

The family also lost their Christmas presents.

"She lost her home. She lost her memories. A lot of it is gone," said Leanne Milton, Hiner's sister. Milton owned the home and had raised her children there.

After seeing what the Hiners lost, firefighters at Phoenix Fire Station No. 41 used their charity money to buy new gifts for Hiner's 1-year-old daughter, Willow, and 4-year-old son, Kiernan. They replaced Kiernan's favorite Christmas gift, a plastic dinosaur toy, which was lost in the fire.

"I'm so thankful," Hiner said tearfully. "It tells them it's going to be OK. ... It tells them that it might be a little rough right now, but it'll be OK."

The fire department also gave the family more than $200 in Target gift cards.

"We know that this is part of that healing process, so if we can do a little bit to make the day a little bit better and to help them start that, we will," said firefighter John Dean. "I think this is what we signed up for as firefighters a long time ago. It's the compassion piece. We understand we see people on their worst days ... and sometimes we can make a difference and sometimes we can't, but today we can, so we're going to enjoy this."

The fire did not spread to any neighboring homes, and no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Fire crews are cautioning the public that dried-out Christmas trees can present a fire hazard, so make sure to dispose of your tree properly. You can go online for information about disposing of your tree.