By Martin DeAngelis, Press of Atlantic City
A young pit bull woke up its owners to warn them of a fire in their Pleasant Mills Road home early this morning, but the dog itself died in the fire, which destroyed much of the ranch house, police say. Nine people who had been sleeping in the home shortly before 4:30 a.m.all got out unhurt, Hammonton Detective John Panarello said.
"The people we spoke to said the dog was barking," Panarello said. "They went back to see why, and saw that the house was pretty much engulfed in flames."
Investigators haven't determined how the fire started, but the detective said he contacted the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office "to rule out any foul play."
All Panarello was sure of was that the blaze started in the back of the house, but he couldn't even say what room it was in because "it was all burnt."
Property records list the owner of the house as Mary DeMarco, but the detective said the occupants are renting the home. A Miguel Rodriguez is the head of the household and the nine survivors included children and adults. Panarello said that friends of the Rodriguez family were apparently visiting with their children.
"Nobody got hurt, but the pit bull just didn't make it," he said. "They had it wrapped up in a tarp when I got there," so he couldn't see exactly what had happened to the dog.
The detective credited a delivery person for The Press of Atlantic City with calling 911 to report the fire. He had no details on firefighters' efforts to control the fire, and officials of the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Department couldn't be reached today.