Michele Engel was getting ready to leave her home on Railroad Avenue in Madison Saturday afternoon to go shopping, when she heard shouting next door. She and family members looked over to the house next door and realized it was on fire.
They raced out, and saw that their neighbors were safe. All except one, a small, white dog was still inside.
The tenants of the house, renters who had moved in about a week earlier, called the fire department, while Engle tried to call to the dog in the hopes that he would make his escape, neighbors said.
"We were calling to her to come out," Engel said Saturday, as she watched firefighters put the fire out. "We could hear her barking."
Engel said she and the others wanted to save the dog, but that the fire spread so quickly that by the time she ran over, flames were coming out of the back of the house, making it impossible to go back inside.
"I feel sick," Engel said, about her neighbor's loss. The family includes a husband and wife, and several children, including one very small child, neighbors said.
While the loss of a pet during a fire is devastating, fire experts say it is never a good idea to go back in to a burning house to rescue a pet, or for any other reason. Despite what happened Saturday, pets sometimes can make it out on their own.
The problem is that fires can spread so quickly, leaving no time to go back in safely. Levels of carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes build rapidly, and can overcome anyone who tries to venture back inside. Thick smoke can make it impossible to see. Then, as flames spread, temperatures can quickly rise to levels that make it impossible for anyone to survive.
Earlier this year, a 35-year-old man from Ohio was overcome by smoke inhalation after he re-entered a burning house. Relatives say they think he was trying to save his pets. In 2007, a nine-year-old boy died after racing back in to a burning house to try to save his pet.
While the dog could not be saved Saturday, no one else was hurt during the fire, fire officials say. The cause is still under investigation. Neighbors said it appeared that the fire may have started in or near the kitchen.
Here are ten safety tips for kids, including "never go back in to a burning building for any reason."