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Rescued Gizmo is top dog as he saves new family from house fire

By Allan Preston

Published 03/03/2016

Wonder dog: Deirdre Walsh with Gizmo
Wonder dog: Deirdre Walsh with Gizmo
The damaged bedroom

A Belfast family who narrowly escaped a house fire have said they owe their lives to a dog they rescued from a pound just weeks ago.

Gizmo, a two-year-old German Spitz, raised the alarm by barking when the fire broke out early yesterday morning in the bedroom of 15-year-old Courtney Walsh.

Five other children between the ages of three and 17 and two adults were fast asleep in the family home on the Falls Road in west Belfast.

It's believed the fire started after an extension plug overheated and the smoke alarms failed to detect the danger.

With Courtney's room filling with smoke, she was woken up just in time by Gizmo.

She escaped but suffered a burn on her right arm from an overheated metal bed frame. Thankfully her injury wasn't serious and the fire was soon put out, with only superficial damage to the bedroom.

After treatment in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Courtney (below with Gizmo) spoke about the terrifying moment she woke up.

"I heard my dog barking from the other room and then I woke up and my bed was in flames. I then ran into my mum's room and told her about the fire and she came in."

She added: "I could have died."

Courtney said her burn "was sore, but not too bad".

Her older brother Ryan (17) was asleep in the next room at the time.

"I was scared, anxious about what happened to my sister, wondering if her injuries would be bad or leave scars, but thankfully not," he said.

Incredibly, Gizmo had just been rescued himself by the Walsh family from a dog pound in January. He had been found wandering the streets of Lisburn, neglected by his former owner, and was taken away by the dog warden.

"If we hadn't got Gizmo that day, then we wouldn't be here right now," said Ryan.

"That's my way of looking at it. Another two minutes and the fire would have engulfed that whole room and Courtney probably wouldn't be here."

The children's mother Deirdre Walsh (34) praised Gizmo as a "proper guard dog" and said she was still shaken by the ordeal.

"It still hasn't sunk in really. It could have been worse if the dog didn't alert us. I'll not be sleeping tonight, not a chance."

Deirdre's boyfriend Eoin McAuley (34) was also in the house at the time of the fire. He described waking up to smoke in the hallway as "terrifying".

Playing with Gizmo yesterday afternoon, he said: "He doesn't know what all the fuss is about."

"Gizmo will be on breast of chicken today, he's a magic dog. We saved him and he's saved the whole family now. It's something you'll never forget.

"It's just magic. If it wasn't for Gizmo barking we all could have been dead today."

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