Residents escape Columbia apartment fire - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Residents escape Columbia apartment fire

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COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

A family thought they had lost everything in a fire on Thursday before a miraculous discovery in the ashes.

When flames tore through an apartment building, a little dog found a way to survive.

Christian Bennett was at his apartment on Highland Avenue around 1 a.m. Thursday when heavy smoke filled the living room.

"My brother's wife came up to me from the back apartment and started beating on the door and said their apartment was on fire," said Bennett.

Bennett said he had only seconds before flames ripped through his unit.

"It was pretty bad," said Bennett. "I saw a lot of smoke when I first came out and I saw flames from the backside of the apartment."

Bennett's first thought was to get his family and pets out of the apartment.

"Everybody was out, but we were trying to get the dogs," said Bennett. "One of our dogs we couldn't get out because he ran back in."

"I thought he was already dead," said Lisa Travis, who is Duke's owner.

The smoke was so thick, the fire so hot that Travis couldn't get back in to save Duke.

The flames even kept firefighters back. At one point the roof caved in.

Once the fire was out and everyone was safe, crews went back inside to look for the pets.

"They were looking for a dog and all of a sudden the dog appeared," said Columbia Fire Department Assistant Chief Tommy Hemphill. "The roof collapsed and they got him and he seems fine."

Apparently the 3-year-old Chihuahua mix was hiding in the attic to escape the flames when the ceiling collapsed.

Firefighters found the dog cold and scared, but not a scratch on him.

"He's a real smart dog," said Travis. "I don't know how he got upstairs. He must have run out when the door was open up the stairway."

Then firefighters found Travis' bird alive.

"I feel just fine," said Travis. "My dog's OK, my bird's OK. I just want a new home to go to."

No word yet from fire officials on what sparked the fire. The Red Cross has put the family up in a local hotel for the time being.

Bennett said he's not sure where he's going to go from there. He didn't have renter's insurance.

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