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Dogs alert family to house fire

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Feb. 12, 2012 at 3:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2012 at 8:12 p.m.

Firefighters from the Victoria Fire Department sift through the remains of a garage where a fire occurred Sunday at the home of Patsy and James Holt. The fire was mostly contained to the garage and the kitchen, said Roger Hempel, Victoria Fire Department battalion chief.

Patsy Holt was in the bath tub, preparing for church about 9:30 a.m. Sunday when her three Chihuahuas - Boo Boo, Jack and Kerry King - started to bark.

"I saw the lights flicker and then I heard an explosion," Pasty Holt, 56, said. "And I heard my son say, 'Mom, the house is on fire!"

As the dogs continued to bark, Holt wrapped a towel around her body and fled the home with her son, Chris Yankie, 37, and 94-year-old husband, James Holt. Yankie's 11-year-old daughter, Katie, was away visiting relatives.

"The dogs barking is how we knew something was wrong. The dogs are what saved us," Holt said.

Noticing the flames bursting from the rear of the home, neighbors rushed outside to help the family, even offering Holt clothing and blankets to replace the towel wrapped around her small, shivering, frame.

"I came out with a towel on, and the neighbors were getting me dressed," Holt said.

Victoria Fire Department Firefighters responded at 9:48 a.m. to the house fire in the 4000 block of Begonia Street and discovered flames and smoke coming from the garage of the Holt's four-bedroom, single-family home, Battalion Chief Roger Hempel said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Hempel said, but about 25 percent of the structure was destroyed. The fire was extinguished about 10:30 a.m., although smoke continued to rise from the home for several hours. Extensive heat and smoke damaged the rest of the structure, Hempel said. The family has insurance.

"We were seconds from not" getting out, Patsy Holt said. "And we were awake. Imagine if we were sleeping."

Boo Boo, Jack and Kerry King, the hero Chihuahuas who alerted their owners to the fire, perished. The Holts' parrot, Tazu, also died of smoke inhalation.

Linda May, of the American Red Cross Crossroads chapter, said officials are assisting the family with a three-night hotel stay, food and clothing, and money to purchase coats.

May said the American Red Cross will be accepting clothing and other donations for the family, but asks that those wanting to donate call the American Red Cross main office before giving.

No one was injured in the fire, Hempel said, and each of the family members were examined at the scene by emergency medical officials.

Holt credits the Victoria Fire Department, Victoria Police Department, EMS, and the American Red Cross for assisting her family.

"Until you go through something like this, you don't know what they do for you," she said. "They've been wonderful to us."



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