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Dog Alerts Neighbors As Homeowners Escape Millcreek House Fire

MILLCREEK, Utah — Fire ripped through a house early Monday morning, forcing its four occupants out and leaving neighbors apprehensive about the possibility of the flames spreading to their properties.

Eric Birkeland said he was awakened after 1 a.m. by his dog barking, looked outside and saw flames rising from his neighbor’s house, which is located on Arnett Dr. east of 2300 East.

“(The flames) looked at least probably 20 feet high,” Birkeland said. “It was just a ball of fire back there.”

Unified Fire Authority spokesman Matthew McFarland said Monday evening the cause of the fire remained undetermined.

Damage was estimated at more than $100,000, according to McFarland, with the garage appearing to be a total loss and the roof likely requiring replacement.

McFarland said the fire happened just hours before the homeowners’ two children were supposed to attend their first day of school.

Birkeland said he scrambled to get his family outside in case the fire spread.

“The neighbors — they were telling us embers were falling on our roof,” said Birkeland. “It was incredibly hot!”

Birkeland said he was glad his dog, a 4-year-old Labrador named Modalen, started waking people up with his barking.

“He was up on his back legs, front paws up against the gate there, just barking and ready to get out of there,” Birkeland described, referencing the dog’s kennel, which sits against a back yard wall that divides the two properties.

Birkeland’s 17-year-old daughter, Isabelle, said she also saw the flames after she too was awakened by barking and the other commotion.

“Modalen obviously couldn’t have known what was exactly happening, but he knew that something wasn’t right,” she posted to Instagram. “Because he knew something was wrong, he did not stop barking until someone came outside.”

The teen said the dog seldom barks, other than to alert the family to trespassers.

“I’m just so grateful that he was there to bark at us and get us up!” she said.

Birkeland said that’s exactly what he wants in a dog.

“You don’t want them barking all the time,” Birkeland said. “Just bark at something that’s not normal.”

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