Northern Virginia

Rescue Dog Alerts Virginia Woman to Fire Caused by Christmas Lights

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When Christmas lights caused a Virginia town house to catch fire, a rescue dog alerted the resident before the smoke alarms could.

The front of the town house in the 6600 block of Briarleigh Way in the Kingstowne section of Fairfax County caught fire before 2 a.m. Sunday, according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

One of Jan Bickhart’s dogs, 9-year-old rescue Pippa, woke her up before the smoke alarms sounded, which didn't immediately detect the smoke because the fire started outside. She said she knew something was wrong because Pippa’s bark was vicious. Birkhart thought there was an intruder.

“I opened my door and saw all the smoke,” she said.

Birkhart got outside safely but realized Pippa and her other dog, Benny, hadn’t followed her.

“I couldn't get either of them out, and 911 kept telling me to get out of the house, and I kept running back in to get them,” Birkhart saod.

Firefighters managed to rescue Birkhart, Pippa and Benny.

The cause of the fire was related to an extension cord used to plug in Christmas lights, the fire department said. The extension cord was meant for indoor use only, not for outside.

A year ago, the home next door burned to the ground — again, faulty Christmas lights were the cause — and Birkhart had just moved back into her home in August. Now she is displaced again.

The fire did not damage the interior of the home, which has approximately $25,500 in damages.

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