Neighbors couldn’t believe what they were hearing Sunday when dogs believed to have been killed in a residential explosion and fire suddenly could be heard crying from beneath the rubble.
Authorities thought three of four dogs in a Caseyville home were killed either by the initial explosion — which seemed as if it picked up the two-story frame house and then slammed it to the ground — or the ensuing inferno that completely consumed the roof and charred the collapsed walls.
But neighbors called the Hollywood Heights fire department Sunday evening after they heard the dogs first crying and then barking. Firefighters were eventually able to dig their way to the animals with a backhoe. One rescue worker crawled through a hole just large enough for him to fit through to free the animals.
“We were there for a long time Saturday, and no one heard a thing,” Hollywood Heights Fire Department Chief Buddy Moore said. “But neighbors called us Sunday afternoon to say that they heard barking.”
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Larry Arnold, who lives directly across the street from the devastated house, said he was standing in his front yard with some neighbors Sunday afternoon when he heard some whining.
“I said ‘shut up you guys, I hear those dogs crying,’” Arnold said. “They said I was crazy. We walked over there and those dogs got real quiet because they must have been scared. But then they started barking.”
Arnold, a 23-year veteran of the Hollywood Heights Fire Department, called his chief and, suddenly, an army of half a dozen firefighters showed up to dig.”
The dogs in the basement, standard poodles the owner’s son and daughter-in-law breed, were in cages in a couple of feet of water trapped in the basement during the effort to douse the fire.
“I couldn’t believe they were still alive because of the explosion, the heat of the fire and then they almost drowned,” Arnold said. “But it was probably the water that saved them from the heat.”
Neighbor Darlene Jonas said she is afraid the fourth dog, believed to be an Australian Shepherd, may have run back into the burning house after initially escaping.
“We haven’t seen her since right after the explosion,” Jonas said. “Usually those dogs wouldn’t go too far if they got out.”
The Australian Shepherd, who neighbors said is named Sadie, wasn’t in a kennel. She fled the house in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Jonas said she was seen hanging around the area right after the blast. But no one knows where she’s been since then.
Jonas said the dogs were in “rough” shape. They eagerly ate and drank after being freed and neighbors washed them with dish soap and water to take the smoke and soot out of their singed fur.
A natural gas explosion is blamed for causing the destruction of the house in the first block of Edgewood Lane Saturday evening, according to fire department leaders.
The owner of the house, who couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, was not in the home at the time of the blast. No one was injured in the explosion, although debris was scattered throughout the neighborhood.
On Monday, Ameren utility workers, an insurance agent and a state fire marshal surveyed the scene trying to find clues about what ignited the blast.