WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- The fire broke out at 710 12th Street in West Des Moines just before 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. There were five animals inside at the time of the fire.
A passerby noticed the flames coming from the rear bedroom and knocked on the door, but no one answered as the homeowners were away. The man, without a cellphone, flagged down a motorist, who called 911.
When firefighters arrived, they quickly rescued a dog and two birds, but struggled to reach the back of the house.
"The house is loaded with belongings, so it made it very difficult for us to get in and find the scene of the fire. We could see the flames coming out from one of the windows, but getting from the front door back to that was very challenging due to the smoke and the items that were in the house," said West Des Moines Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell.
When they got to the scene of the fire, crews put the flames out in a matter of minutes. After knocking down the fire and putting out hot spots, firefighters were informed that there were two dogs in the home that were unaccounted for.
Whitsell was not optimistic when asked about the chances the dogs made it, but said they were hoping for the best.
When the homeowners arrived at the scene they were visibly distraught, until two firefighters appeared in the doorway carrying the two dogs. Both survived.
"When these dogs get scared they apparently go underneath a coffee table that's under that front window. The firefighters went back in and searched it, and based on what they found they were hidden underneath, and there was a pocket of clean air with stuff around it," said Whitsell.
When they found out all the animals were safe, one of the homeowners collapsed in tears of joy.
"He was overcome with emotion, the animals are their life. For all of us who have pets, we know how much they mean to us" said Whitsell.
Whitsell says the home has a lot of smoke damage, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.