Roanoke County family praises smart smoke detector after dog accidentally starts fire

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Gilbert, a 2-year-old bluetick coonhound, has fit right into the Barr family ever since they adopted him in September.

However, Gilbert’s dad, Matt Barr, says the gentle, 90-pound giant has a mischievous side.

“I’ll tell you, Gilbert is a counter-surfer," Matt said. “He’s knocked off a few things on the counter before. He knocked off a glass canister full of flour and that exploded. That was an interesting cleanup. He likes candy, he likes snacks, so there tends to be messes from time to time.”

Wednesday morning, Matt was at work, his 6-year-old daughter Bebe was at school and his wife Rebecca had just left the house to run some errands. Suddenly, he got notifications on his cell phone from his Google Nest smoke detector.

“I didn’t think much of it because they’re a little sensitive and I thought my wife was home, you know, cooking," Matt said.

He kept getting notifications that smoke had been detected in the house, so he called his wife and realized no one, except Gilbert, was home.

Rebecca called 911 and rushed back to their house on Sullivan Lane, arriving around the same time as Roanoke County Fire and Rescue crews. They got Gilbert outside safely and discovered what had happened.

“Gilbert here, he had hopped up and got his front paws on our stovetop, a gas stovetop, and was able to ignite one of the burners and it burned long enough and there was a wooden knife block close enough to the top of the stove and it eventually caught fire," Matt said.

Roanoke County Community Outreach Coordinator Brian Clingenpeel said that without that smart technology, the house likely would have been severely damaged and Gilbert would have been in danger, too.

“Certainly, at the bare minimum, everybody needs to have working smoke alarms in their home,” Clingenpeel said. “If you’re fortunate enough then to add some smart technology to your smoke alarms or to get an upgrade of some sort so that it notifies you even when you’re not at home, then that’s fantastic."

The Barr’s house still smells smoky and even though Gilbert’s caused a bit of grief, the family said they’re just relieved knowing Gilbert—and their home—are safe.

“He’s a really good boy. We love him to death. He’s been a great addition," Barr said. "We’ll give him a pass.”

Clingenpeel said everyone needs to have working smoke detectors in their homes, check them once a month to make sure they’re functioning, replace their batteries at least once a year, and replace the smoke detectors with new ones every ten years.

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