A barking dog named Pebbles helped save the lives of a Dickinson woman and her daughter as a fire was destroying their home early Sunday morning.
Amber Beld and her 10-year-old daughter, Simone, escaped the house unharmed but lost most of their possessions because of a fire that the Dickinson Fire Department believes was the result of smoldering ashes from a backyard fire pit.
“I don’t know what I would have done without our little dog there with us,” Beld said. “She was like our little savior. She watches over us.”
The Dickinson Fire Department and Dickinson Police Department responded to the home at the 800 block of 13th Avenue West just before 1 a.m. to find the attached garage and part of the home’s roof engulfed in flames. Sivak said the fire department responded with four apparatuses and 18 firefighters. The fire was extinguished by about 2:30 a.m.
The 4-year-old Sheltie woke up Beld just before 1 a.m. with incessant barking. Soon after, Beld said she heard what she believed was the garage door slamming and thought she had an intruder in the home.
It was much worse.
Beld looked out of the house to see her covered patio engulfed in flames and called 911. She also heard the doorbell ring, though she is certain no one was at the front door.
The fire appeared to start on the exterior of the garage where Beld had disposed of the fire pit’s ashes, Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said after a preliminary investigation Sunday morning.
“Based on how we see the burn patterns and on information provided to us by the homeowner leads us to believe that it was discarded ashes from a fire pit in a combustible waste container that contained other combustible products on the exterior of the garage,” Sivak said.
Beld said she and her daughter were roasting marshmallows Saturday night but had put out the fire pit’s flames with water.
“We do it quite often,” she said. “When we get done with our fire, we always douse it with water.”
The garage and the west side of the home were destroyed, as was Beld’s SUV that was inside of the garage. The east side of the home had smoke and water damage.
Beld, who is an insurance agent for Dakota Community Bank & Trust, said that while she was able to recover some items from the house, she was unable to salvage most of the personal items in her bedroom — including her entire wardrobe.
Simone also lost a majority of her possessions, including much of her clothing and her favorite stuffed animal.
“It’s very hard losing your favorite stuffed animal,” Beld said.
Beld said her oldest daughter, 12-year-old Sydney, was camping with friends and was not home. Many of Sydney’s possessions are fine, though they suffered smoke and water damage.
The girls, who are both active in sports, also lost all of their softball and golf equipment that was in the garage, Beld said.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s very tough. It’s going to be a really long process.”
Steve Kinzel, Beld’s nextdoor neighbor, said he and his wife were awoken by Dickinson Police and told to leave their home for safety reasons at about 1 a.m. A shed in the Kinzels’ backyard and the siding of their home had minor damage caused by the heat of the flames.
“Nothing to worry about,” said Kinzel, who was more concerned for his neighbors. “Good neighbor, excellent kids, just wonderful. You just hate to see something like this happen. It’s sad.”
Allen Ollila, who lives across the street, said the police woke him up shortly after 1 a.m. to have him to move his car from the street so a firetruck could park there.
“The whole community was basically watching,” Ollila said. “As far as I could tell, everybody was offering Amber and her daughter any assistance if they needed anything.”
Beld said that while she’s still figuring out what to do for long-term lodging, she and the girls are staying with her parents in Killdeer. The Red Cross has given them vouchers and three days lodging at a Dickinson hotel.
The girls had planned to spend time with their father in Maryland beginning in June, but Beld said they’ll likely leave sooner because of the fire.
Beld said while she’s still trying to make sense of it all, she knows one thing for sure — Pebbles saved the day.
“Without Pebbles — I was so tired,” Beld said. “I was so sound asleep. I couldn’t even imagine what would have happened.”