GASTONIA, N.C. — Officials said three children were able to escape their burning home in Gastonia early Wednesday morning thanks to a working smoke alarm.
Firefighters said they responded to a blaze on Baker Boulevard just after 2 a.m. and saw smoke billowing from the home.
According to officials, three sisters were home alone when the fire started in the kitchen.
The girls woke up to a blaring smoke alarm and after the oldest gathered her younger siblings, they all escaped the fire.
"This is kind of a scary situation," the girl’s Aunt Ithia White said.
A neighbor said he heard their shrieks as they rushed out of the home for help. Just afterward, he said he heard a loud boom, which he believes was the sound of the windows shattering in the kitchen.
A call was then made to 911.
"Three kids there, and they came over here knocking on our door,” the caller told the 911 operator. “Their house is like on fire."
The girls went back toward the burning house worried about their dog.
"Don’t go in the house," the voice on the 911 recording said.
"Yeah, don’t let them go in that house," the 911 operator said.
"I’m trying to tell them,” the caller said. “They said the dog is in there. Oh my God."
The girls were unable to save the family's dog.
Fire officials said most of the damage, caused by a pot left unattended on the stove, was contained to the kitchen.
Officials recommend the public follow a few simple guidelines while preparing meals:
- Always stay in the kitchen while baking, frying, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- When simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Keep anything that can catch fire such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains away from the stovetop.
"I think it would probably be pretty scary for some children to be (woken) up by a smoke detector and then find that there's a house that's full of smoke," said Capt. Michael Carpenter, with the Gastonia Fire Department. "The fact that they were able to be able to get out -- alerted by the smoke detector and get out -- it saved their lives today."
Firefighters said they were able to put out the fire, which caused an estimated $15,000 in damage, in about 10 minutes.
"Eighty percent of all fire fatalities are due to cooking, somebody cooking," Assistant Fire Chief William Warren said.
Paramedics checked out the children at the scene and determined they did not need to go to a hospital.
Two adults picked up the girls and they are now staying with their aunt.
Channel 9 learned the girls' mother was at work when the fire started.
Family members are recovering what they can from the home, but said they're just grateful the girls are safe.
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