A St. Charles County, Missouri, family is lucky to be alive after losing their home to fire. Investigators with the Cottleville Fire Protection District believe an ashtray was dumped in a garage trash can with a cigarette that was still burning.
The fire quickly spread. Six people were inside the home on Highfield Drive. Two of the homeowners' grandchildren, 6 and 8, just happened to be up at 1:00am on Saturday playing video games.
They noticed the smoke and yelled at everyone to get out of the house. Firefighters said they did exactly the right thing and likely saved six lives.
"You alert the family and everybody gets out and then you call 911," said Cottleville Fire Protection District Chief Robert Wylie.
He said it's a message his department repeatedly tells young students in school and he believes that message paid off.
"It's hard to imagine what would have happened had everyone gone to bed," said Chief Wylie.
He pointed out that the fire started in the garage where there was no smoke detector and that it happened in the middle of the night when it's not likely a neighbor would have noticed trouble.
Terry Owens lives next door and didn't know there was a problem until someone from inside the burning home knocked on his door.
"They asked me to call 911," said Owens.
He said the flames were too close to his house for comfort. A north wind sent the flames away from his home, but burned the siding of another neighbor.
"The flames got here so fast and that is what amazed me," said Owens.
Chief Wylie said the family is now staying with relatives, but said his department has a community outreach program and has provided the family gift cards to Target and Dierbergs to buy clothes and food.
Anyone wishing to help can contact the Cottleville Fire Protection District at 636-447-6655.