Thanks to the persistence of a dog named Aiko, four people survived a devastating house fire early Friday at 1216 Ohio.
The fire that destroyed the house forced three of the four people sleeping there to jump for their lives from second- and third-floor windows.
Aiko, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier and Shih Tzu mix, died in the fire.
"He went out gloriously," Derek Hein, 21, the dog's owner, said several hours later, obviously distraught, as he stood on crutches in front of the burned-out house. "He took one for the team."
Hein, 21, said he and his girlfriend, Lindsey Evans, 21, were awakened about 4:30 a.m. by Aiko.
Hein and Evans ignored the dog at first, and even pushed it off the bed, Hein said. But the dog started barking again.
"I got up and opened the door to the hallway and all this black smoke rolled in," Hein recalled. "We went out the window, hopefully thinking my dog would follow. He was there at the window with us the last I looked down."
Hein, 21, a Washburn University sophomore, and Evans, 21, a Kansas University junior, got out on an overhang and then jumped one floor to the ground. But Aiko didn't follow.
Matt Medling, 22, a KU junior, escaped by jumping from a third-floor window at the front of the house. He dropped to a second-floor ledge and then jumped to the ground. Medling was not available for comment.
Medling, Hein and Evans were taken by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Medling and Hein were treated and released. Evans remained in the hospital, suffering from four compressed vertebrae, Hein said. A hospital spokeswoman said she was in good condition late Friday.
Matthew Gader, 19, was sleeping in his room in the basement when the fire broke out. He said he did not hear the dog but was awakened by noise from others in the house.
"I woke up after hearing what sounded like 20 people jumping up and down on the floor," Gader said. He said he was able to walk out of the house unhurt.
Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical were called to the fire about 4:40 a.m., said Deputy Chief Mark Bradford. The first firefighters to arrive found flames coming out of all doors and windows at the front of the wood-frame house, he said.
A total of 25 firefighters fought the blaze for two hours before bringing it under control at 6:45 a.m., Bradford said.
Tom Fleming, 18, a Free State High School student who also lives in the house, had gone to his parents' home in Topeka to spend the night. He returned to the house Friday afternoon and wondered if he would have survived had he been there during the fire.
"My window would have been up high on the back, and there is nothing to break my fall if I jumped," he said.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation Friday afternoon, but Battalion Chief Jerry Karr said malfunctioning electrical equipment may be a cause. The fire originated in the first floor living room, located on the west side of the house, Karr said.
No dollar estimate for losses had been determined late Friday.
Residents of the house identified Ashley Funderburk, Lawrence, as the owner. She could not be reached for comment.
Residents said they knew of only one smoke detector in the house and weren't sure it was working. They also said there were places where wiring in the house was exposed.
Neighbors described the fire scene as chaos. Nicole Cottin, one of six women who lived in a house next door, said she and her housemates gave sweatshirts, pants and blankets to their neighbors. The men were wearing only boxer shorts, she said.
"It was not a good wake-up call," said Cottin, 19, a KU sophomore. "It was cold. We kept piling the blankets on them."
The Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross also was assisting the victims.
Among the losses in the house was thousands of dollars worth of guitars and other musical instruments and equipment stored in the basement, Hein, Gader and Fleming said. They said they were unsure how much of their personal belongings might be covered by insurance.
The occupants of the house perform in a musical group called Big Metal Rooster. They said they play a mixture of "feel good" music. The band members also carry with them a rooster made of metal they put on the stage with them.
"It's the only thing that survived," Fleming said.