- May 21, 2010
Liz Zemba said:Police use stun gun on Pa. man attempting to save pets from fireHe said he was using a garden hose to try to douse the flames before firefighters arrived; a cop ordered him to stop
By Liz Zemba
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review
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NORTH BELLE VERNON, Pa. — A family of four, including a woman pregnant with triplets, escaped injury late yesterday afternoon when their North Belle Vernon home was destroyed by fire, but six of their 11 pet snakes perished in the blaze.
Monica Baker said she and her husband, Damon, were in an upstairs living room playing cards at 500 Green St. when neighbors alerted them to the fire. Unaware of the blaze, the couple said they immediately shouted for their two children, Destiny Douglas, 11, and Shayla Douglas, 9.
"I wasn't sure where the kids were," Damon Baker said yesterday, explaining how he yelled downstairs for the children and checked their bedrooms.
"There was a lot of smoke, and flames were shooting through the bedroom window," Damon Baker said, indicating the children were downstairs and were the first to make it out of the house.
The Bakers said they then tried to save their two canaries, two finches and 11 ball python snakes. Both grabbed cages containing two birds each, but they couldn't remove the snakes because their cage was too heavy.
Damon Baker said he was using a garden hose to try to douse the flames before firefighters arrived. He acknowledged the water wasn't much help, but said he refused to obey a North Belle Vernon police officer's order to stop.
The officer, Damon Baker said, pulled him away from the house. Damon Baker said the officer used a stun device on him when he went back toward the house.
"It shocked the hell out of me," he said. "I took a few steps back."
Damon Baker said he wasn't injured, and he holds no ill will toward the officer.
"It was a judgment call," Damon Baker said. "In his opinion, he was right to do it. In my opinion, he was wrong for stopping me from protecting my property."
When firefighters arrived, they immediately tried to save the snakes, Damon Baker said.
"A couple of the brave ones carried them out for us," Damon Baker said, describing the snakes as non-venomous. "I can't give those guys a big enough pat on the back."
Six of the snakes died. The Bakers yesterday said they will take the five survivors to a veterinarian, but they fear all will die within a few weeks from respiratory infections caused by smoke. Monica Baker said few snakes survive such infections.
The family's pet birds are expected to survive because they were in the upstairs living room. None was exposed to the smoke, the Bakers said. They said neighbors are caring for the birds. Another neighbor gave the Bakers a small acquarium to house the snakes temporarily.
The Bakers said they have been renting the house since March. Damon Baker said he moved his family to North Belle Vernon for his job on a natural-gas drilling rig with Nomac Drilling.
Monica Baker, who said she is pregnant with triplets, said she has no relatives in the area to assist them with housing. The couple and their children last night were staying at a hotel provided by the American Red Cross.
The Baker's residence, as well as that of their neighbors at 506 Green St., were destroyed in the fire, according to North Belle Vernon fire Chief Ken Ramsdell. The occupants of 506 Green St. were not at home when the fire was reported.
Ramsdell said the cause of the fire is unknown. A state police fire marshal was on scene last night to investigate. North Belle Vernon police did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Video: http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-attack/ ... from-fire/