By Jim Newell
For Dr. Richard Veyna, May 27 began like most school days: wake up, get the kids ready for school, drive them to school.
But while he was out, Veyna got the alert that that day was not like any other day at the Veyna household: smoke alarms were going off at his home.
His home, where he and his four kids had just left minutes before. Where two golden retrievers, a cat, hamster and gold fish remained.
“Obviously I was at the school and I was terrified because I knew the pets were at home and that’s all I could think about, ‘What’s going on with the animals?’” Veyna said.
Veyna sped to his home on King Circle off of Heights Road and saw two fire trucks, police officers and firefighters in full gear with hoses and equipment. Firefighters had already doused the fire and got the pets out of the home.
At that time, Veyna still didn’t know that his golden retriever, Finn, had accidentally started the fire. And it is a story that has now made national headlines.
“Everything was already under control thanks to them getting here so quickly, and thanks to the alarm company for having made all the right calls to get people here and get things taken care of,” Veyna said. “I’m forever grateful, forever thankful to ADT and all the (firefighters), who I’m forever indebted to for saving my animals.”
Firefighters told Veyna that one of the family dogs likely started the fire, which did not destroy the home but caused significant smoke damage.
That was confirmed by an indoor security camera video from ADT, which showed that Finn had turned on a burner while trying to reach a cotton candy maker left on top of the stove the night before.
A box on the counter caught fire and thick, black smoke began to fill the house, said Bob Tucker, a spokesperson for ADT, during a press conference on Thursday at Veyna’s home.
“Fortunately, there are multiple smoke detectors in the house. They all triggered and signaled the ADT monitoring centers. Within just a few minutes, the wonderful fire department here in Orion Township was on scene, snuffed out the fire and rescued the dogs,” Tucker said. “And that’s important because today is National Pet Fire Safety Day, a time for pet owners to reflect on keeping their dogs and cats safe and preventing them from being one of the 40,000 that are killed in home fires every year.”
National ADT representatives also presented members of the Orion Township Fire Department a $5,000 check for their quick actions. ADT Inc., provides residential and business electronic security, fire protection and other related alarm monitoring services throughout the United States.
Jeff Williams, Orion Township’s fire marshal, said the fire department would put the money toward prevention services.
“This is a great example of the added life-safety features they had installed in their home. And when you take care of it, this is what can happen and this can be the outcome,” Williams said.
Veyna thanked the firefighters for not only saving his family’s home, but their beloved pets.
“Sometimes we don’t get a chance to say ‘Thank you’ and acknowledge what you guys do,” Veyna said. “You guys are out saving homes every day and saving lives, and even saving pets’ lives, so I appreciate it.”
Orion Township Trustee Brian Birney, the fire and police liaison for the township board, said the fire department did a great job getting to the fire and putting it out before it became worse.
“We take safety and security very seriously. With the commitment to go to ALS (Advanced Life Support), to constantly improving our fire department, hiring new individuals, increasing training and new equipment this is the result,” Birney said.
“But stories like this are fantastic, especially when there’s a great outcome and our pets’ lives are saved. They’re just as important as our family members. It’s a great day,” said Birney, who has a golden retriever and a silver lab.
Veyna said there was about $40,000 worth of damage to the home. The family and pets are temporarily living elsewhere for the next 3-4 months while the home is repaired.
Birney credits Orion’s first responders for their quick actions to save lives, not just in this incident, but in others around Orion as well.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase (in serious calls) since we’ve become ALS. Life-saving measures, for example, the accident on Indianwood. The doctors at the hospital themselves said that if it wasn’t for the first responders the outcome would have been different.
“You hear those things, and then with all the hard work just getting the fire department to that position and then having them execute as well as they do every single day is just very impressive. We couldn’t be prouder of our fire department and our police department. They play a big part in this as well.