SHEFFIELD — While there’s a lot of uncertainty in their future, Brandon McDonald and his fiance might not be facing a future at all if not for his dog, Boots.
McDonald and April Kinsley were asleep in their Park Boulevard apartment early Saturday, unaware that the complex was on fire.
The blaze ultimately destroyed the nine-unit complex, leaving 18 people homeless.
McDonald said he and Kinsley went to bed about 10 p.m. Friday and were sleeping soundly when Boots started barking.
“She barked a couple of times,” McDonald said.
The 9-month-old Blue Gotti, a type of pit bulldog, barked some more and finally bit McDonald on the arm.
“She didn’t bite me hard, just enough to let me know to get up,” McDonald said. “I was going to get up in a little bit because she’d never bit me before.”
McDonald said he smelled smoke. When he got up, he told Kinsley to get Boots and get out of the upstairs apartment.
Kinsley said the room was filling with smoke and a neon clock McDonald bought at Wal-Mart when they moved in helped them escape.
“We knew (the clock) was near the door,” she said.
They made it out of the apartment unharmed, but lost all their belongings in the fire. McDonald said they did not have renter’s insurance.
Kinsley said she, McDonald and others displaced by the fire were provided rooms by the American Red Cross at the Emerald River motel in Sheffield. They will have to find other accommodations today.
Kinsley said they believe the complex had already been on fire for about 15 minutes, but nobody knocked on their door to warn them. She said the fire started in an apartment on the opposite end of the complex.
“Do you know how much of our stuff we could have gotten out in 15 minutes?” Kinsley asked.
She said it’s unlikely they would have woken up in time to get out safely had Boots not bitten McDonald on the arm.
“She saved our lives,” McDonald said.
Sheffield Fire Marshal Terry Lenz said Monday the building was too unstable to enter and begin sifting through the rubble for clues about how the fire might have started.
“It’s going to be a few days before we can get into it and look around,” Lenz said.
The exterior walls are still standing but two-thirds of the roof system collapsed during the fire, Lenz said.
“A big section of the floor between the first and second floors has collapsed,” Lenz said. “A bathtub that fell from the bathroom above is hanging in the area where I want to work.”
Lenz said a firefighter spraying water into a first floor window was nearly struck by a window air conditioner that fell from a second floor window.
“Had it landed on him, it would have killed him,” Lenz said.
Lenz said there is an “area of interest” that investigators want to inspect as they begin trying to determine how the fire started.
Lenz said he is also waiting for an investigator from the owner’s insurance company to arrive.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.