AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – An Aurora family and their dogs are safe thanks in part to their neighbor after their home caught fire overnight.

The fire broke out at about 2:15 a.m. in the garage of the home at 20912 E. Hampden Place.

Fire crews said that when they arrived there were heavy flames coming from the garage.

“The house is heavily damaged. We estimate about $175,000 worth of damage to the home, but a portion of the home is salvageable at this point. The firefighters were able to make a quick, aggressive attack and extinguish the fire, which originated in the garage, and protect the rest of the home,” Cunningham Fire Protection District firefighter David Markham said.

The neighbor, Joel Heap, told CBS4 has was up feeding his newborn child when he heard what sounded like shattering glass and thought somebody was breaking into his car. He looked out the window and saw the home across the street in flames. He told his wife to call 911.

Heap ran to the home and knocked on the door, but nobody answered. He then broke the door down and saw Tracie McKnight and helped her and her 2-year-old daughter get out safely, as well as the two dogs.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“I heard a large bang and realized it was the front door being kicked in,” McKnight said. “I was a little scared, I thought, ‘Is somebody breaking in? What am I going to do to protect my daughter? And I ran down the stairs.”

Heap works for the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office. McKnight called him her “Christmas Angel.”

“We owe him just everything. It’s hard to figure out how to say ‘thank you’ to somebody who did that because I had no idea,” McKnight said. “Apparently there were explosions and the garage door broke apart, and that’s what he really heard when he came over. I didn’t hear it at all, so I could only imagine if he wasn’t there how long it might have taken me to wake up.”

Joel Heap (credit: Elbert County Sheriff's Office)

Joel Heap (credit: Elbert County Sheriff’s Office)

McKnight, who is six-months pregnant, said her husband was out of town. She said he flew back home Tuesday morning after hearing the news.

Firefighters are still working to find the cause of the fire but don’t suspect foul play.


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