Samantha Burton has had a cell phone for less than a month. Tuesday afternoon, she put it to good use, alerting firefighters that her neighbor's garage was on fire.
"I'm 31 and I just got my first cell phone," Burton said. "I've always just believed that we didn't live where I'd need a cell ... but it paid off greatly."
Firefighters arrived minutes later and were able to rescue four of five pets trapped inside the residence on Wondering Way, off Nichols Drive in southeastern Forsyth County.
"I came home from work and I just saw the black smoke and it had just begun to blister the top of the garage," Burton said. "Honestly, I thought when I called they would say they were already on the way."
Firefighters from Stations 1, 2, 10 and 15 used axes to enter the home and garage. They saved two dogs from the garage and a snake and a lizard from the house. They were not able to rescue the family's ferret.
Stunned homeowner Gilbert Rodriguez had little to say. He and his family had been swimming in a neighborhood pool when the blaze started about 3:30 p.m.
Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said the cause of the fire was electrical, and the flames were extinguished in minutes.
Lt. Jason Porter from Fire Station 10 off nearby James Burgess Road was quick to praise his crew, which he said "did an awesome job."
Porter added that residents should take fire safety precautions, particularly this time of year.
"With the Fourth of July coming up and barbecues, it's definitely a higher risk of fires," he said.
The blaze was one of several the department has worked in the last week. There were at least three major structure fires over the weekend, one of which destroyed a home.
The incidents are not connected and Shivers does not suspect foul play.
"There's no relation to the three of them at all, just the fact that we're a busy fire department in a big county," he said.
Shivers stressed that the weekend incidents are nothing unusual.
"That kind of occurrence, one every day, or two or three every weekend, is more the norm for us," he said. "There's no reason for it, it's just cyclical."
Still, Shivers noted, Tuesday's blaze could have been much worse.
"This could have easily been a loss in excess of $300,000, considering the price of the property, the structure and all of the possessions inside," he said.
"Damage was kept to a minimum. Fire spread was prevented and consequently the family's property, their valuables and their keepsakes were salvaged. We have a positive save on four of the five pets, which just like a family member, you can't put a price on."
Burton's hands were black Tuesday afternoon from petting one of the family's dogs, Duchess. She said Duchess had been crouched on the ground during the fire, her nose to the crack between the garage door and driveway, trying to breathe.
Of the call on her new cell phone, Burton said, "I didn't do anything anyone else wouldn't have done."