PLEASANT GROVE -- A 2-year-old toy dog named Halia is a hero in Pleasant Grove.
A shih tzu weighing less than 10 pounds, Halia persistently alerted her owner Julia Timothy on Monday until Timothy got out of bed and saw the neighbor's garage was on fire.
"I woke up about 3 o'clock in the morning and heard my dog barking, which was odd because she never barks at night," Timothy said.
At first, she yelled at the dog to be quiet. She had ear plugs in but she could hear Halia stop barking for just a second.
"Then she started right back up and that is when I pulled my earplugs out and heard the crackling of the fire," Timothy said. "At first I thought someone was trying to break into the house and then I saw the flickering of the lights through the window blinds."
She said she thought "what the heck" and got up to look outside and saw the flames licking the east side of the Pettys' detached garage. Timothy called 911, reported the fire and then ran to the neighbor's house to wake them up. A bit frightened, she initially knocked on their front door and then began knocking on the windows crying out for them to get up, that their house was on fire.
"I thought it was one of my teenage daughter's friends coming to pick her up for one of her early morning classes because I had no idea what time it was," David Petty said. "That's what woke me up -- pounding on the door, pounding on the window, then I heard 'your house is on fire.' "
He could see the flames on the roof of the garage and immediately knew it wasn't a little fire. Petty was able to get his wife and four teenage daughters out of the house. Dispatch contacted Pleasant Grove firefighters at 3:20 a.m. and they arrived a few minutes later, putting the fire out in nine minutes.
"My 12-year-old at 4 o'clock in the morning when the fire trucks were pulling up, the first thing she asked was 'does this mean I don't have to go to school in the morning,' " Petty said, chuckling. "We were really lucky there was no damage to the home. Another half hour we would have seen something, I think."
The family stayed at Timothy's home while the firefighters cleaned up and inspected the cause of the fire. A light bulb warming four Netherland bunnies in their hutch had ignited the straw behind the garage. None of the rabbits survived.
The problem with using a light bulb in a hutch or other animal cage is that sometimes the light bulb can heat up the combustibles inside and be a fire hazard. The fire marshal is empathetic to the Pettys, though.
"He was just trying to keep his rabbits warm," fire marshal Steven Brande said. "It was just good that it was reported soon enough that it was controlled soon enough, so it didn't get to the home and damage the home which was really nice."
The back side of the garage had most of the siding melted away and some of the wood had caught fire. Although the flames reached the peak of the garage roof, Brande reported that the rest of the garage escaped damage. Because the home was separate from the garage and the house did not have time to catch fire, the Pettys were able to return to their home.
Timothy said it was out of character for Halia to bark like that.
"It was weird," she said.
The name shih tzu comes from the Chinese word for "lion dog" because it was bred to resemble a Chinese guardian lion. Halia appears oblivious to the impact her actions have had. For Timothy though, she is just beginning to realize how lucky the Pettys were.
"It's starting to sink in and I'm glad I was able to help. I'm glad my dog woke me up and I'm glad it didn't turn into something worse," Timothy said.