Mosgiel teen Katie O'Brien with her family's miniature Jack Russell, Jewels, and a melted smoke alarm - both of which saved their lives when their laundry caught fire about 2am on Thursday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
In the distance, Natasha O'Brien could hear her miniature
Jack Russell barking.
''Jewels - she was going mental. It wasn't until I really
woke up that I actually heard the fire alarms screaming.
''There was smoke everywhere in the hallway - really thick
toxic black stuff - I can still taste it now.
''I honestly believe that if Jewels hadn't woken us, we'd be
dead right now.''
Mrs O'Brien's husband, David, dived out of bed to find the
laundry was on fire and their Perth St house was quickly
filling up with smoke.
The fire spread quickly through a wall into the bathroom and
the heat was so intense, most plastic in a neighbouring
bedroom melted, including that surrounding a television, Mrs
The Mosgiel couple and their 17-year-old daughter, Katie,
grabbed a cellphone and dialled 111 as they headed for the
exit, closing doors behind them as they went, in a bid to
contain the fire.
''Within two minutes, we were out. The fire guys told us if
we had been in there for another two minutes, we would have
been in real trouble,'' Mrs O'Brien said.
Although firefighters arrived relatively quickly, she said it
felt like an eternity as they stood outside watching the
flames coming out the windows.
''Disbelief, absolute disbelief. I just thought, this can't
Unfortunately, the family lost two of their three cats in the
''They hid in our bedroom, which was one of the worst
bedrooms affected,'' she said.
''We're pretty gutted. One was 16, the other was 10, so
they'd been part of our family for a long time.''
Despite the loss, the family were counting their blessings
''I was treated for smoke inhalation, but we're actually
here. Possessions can be replaced.
"I mean, pets unfortunately, they are pets, but we didn't
lose any people.
''We've already bought a Lotto ticket because we're feeling
extremely lucky. We may need it.''
Mrs O'Brien said the house was insured and was being
inspected by structural engineers to determine whether the
damage could be repaired.
In the meantime, the O'Briens would stay with family in
Yesterday, Jewels did not know what all the fuss was about,
but was certainly enjoying all the attention being lavished
on her by her family.
''She's getting special treats today - spoilt rotten,'' Mrs
Jewels' heroics come two weeks after Scooby, a terrier-cross,
was credited with alerting the Singh family to a fire that
destroyed their Northeast Valley home.