FAIRBANKS — A family credited two cats for alerting them to a fire on the outside of their home before the felines died in the flames.
Jeff and Cheryl Meierotto and their 5-year-old daughter were sleeping early Saturday when their cats, Stripe and Rocky, began to make a ruckus, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
“I believe if the cats hadn’t woken us up we wouldn’t be here,” Cheryl Meierotto told the newspaper. “The smoke alarm didn’t go off because there was nothing burning in the house ... there was no smoke in house.”
The noise from the cats woke up Jeff Meierotto about 12:30 a.m.
“He went to kick them off the bed and that’s when he saw this orange glow outside,” his wife said.
The outside wall of the cabin was on fire.
Cheryl Meierotto rushed downstairs and grabbed their daughter while her husband went to see if he could put out the fire.
“He opened the door and the flames were licking up under the deck and we couldn’t go out that way,” she said. “We turned around and went out the back door.”
After the door was opened, the entire cabin filled with smoke.
Cheryl Meierotto took their daughter outside while her husband went back into the burning house to look for the cats.
“I was outside waiting for him and it was like, oh, my God,” Cheryl Meierotto, 48, said. “I was standing there trying to figure out if I go back in and find him or stay out there with my daughter.
“At about the point I was going to freak out, all of a sudden I saw him flying out of the house and he landed in the snow,” she said. “He had to leap through a wall of fire to get out.”
Jeff Meierotto, 51, suffered burns to his face, arm, leg and foot on his left side.
“He said he came down the stairs, could see a wall of flames, got a running start and jumped,” his wife said “He had to leap through the fire to get out.”
Two Rivers is not in a fire service area, but Cheryl Meierotto said there was little a fire department could have done to save the cabin since it burned so fast.
She said it appears the fire started outside at an exhaust pipe for a stove and fuel tank.
The house was destroyed, and the family also lost personal belongings, including photo albums, artwork and an ivory collection.
“What I take from this is that we had an opportunity to get out alive and we took it,” she said. “The sad thing is the cats didn’t make it.”