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9/14/2011
Rabbit alerts owner to house fire

By LEILA KHEIRY

Daily News Staff Writer

A pet rabbit is credited with alerting its owner of a house fire early Tuesday at 142 Austin St., and the human residents were able to get out safely.

The rabbit died from smoke inhalation, according to the Ketchikan Fire Department.

Capt. Tracy Mettler reported Tuesday that the first call about the fire came in at 4:09 a.m., reporting smoke and flames coming from the residence. Ketchikan Police Department officers arrived first, according to the fire department, and reported that all the home’s occupants were outside and accounted for.

"The first fire crews arrived at 4:13 a.m. and were greeted by heavy smoke and flames from the basement," Mettler reported. "Attack lines were stretched to the home and the fire was brought under control quickly."

One of the home’s two occupants was awakened by her pet rabbit scratching her chest while she was in bed, according to Mettler.

"When she woke up, she realized the house was full of smoke, roused her daughter and the two exited the house," Mettler reported.

KFD Capt. James Kleinschmidt said the rabbit was left behind in the scramble to get out of the house. He said pets often get out of a burning structure on their own, but that didn’t happen in this case.

The cause of the fire was undetermined as of Tuesday, according to the fire department.

The basement had moderate damage from smoke, heat and water, Mettler reported. There was smoke damage throughout the home and light water damage to the main level.

Kleinschmidt said the single-family home appeared to be structurally OK, but the fire department has recommended that it not be used as a residence until it has been inspected. The residents, who were renting the home, are in temporary housing provided by the Red Cross, he said. He would not identify the residents.

The house is owned by Olive and Victor Klose, according to Ketchikan Gateway Borough records.

The Ketchikan Fire Department reported that a total of 33 rescue personnel responded to the fire, including those from KFD, and North and South Tongass volunteer fire departments.