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updated: 10/23/2012 1:46 PM

Palatine family can thank Bo for safe escape from fire

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  • Jim and Eileen Wacker, and their daughter Julia give a hug to their hero, Bo, who woke them at 3 a.m. Monday to alert them their Palatine home was on fire. The Wackers and Bo escaped unharmed.

       Jim and Eileen Wacker, and their daughter Julia give a hug to their hero, Bo, who woke them at 3 a.m. Monday to alert them their Palatine home was on fire. The Wackers and Bo escaped unharmed.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Bo rests in front of the Wacker family's fire-damaged house on Evergreen Court in Palatine Monday morning, only hours after waking everyone up with his barking to alert them of the blaze.

      Bo rests in front of the Wacker family's fire-damaged house on Evergreen Court in Palatine Monday morning, only hours after waking everyone up with his barking to alert them of the blaze.
    Photo courtesy of Eileen Wacker

 
 

Bo, a young yellow Labrador, is being credited with saving the lives of his new owners after alerting them to a fire in their Palatine home early Monday morning.

"We would have never got out without this dog," said Bo's owner, Eileen Wacker. "People have asked whether we rescued our dog and I told them 'No, he rescued us'."

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Bo, who rarely barks, woke up Eileen's husband Jim with his barking about 3 a.m. Jim got up to look in on their 14-year-old daughter Julia, in whose room the dog slept.

The room sits just above the attached garage of the home at 762 W. Evergreen Court, which had started on fire in the middle of the night. Eileen said her husband saw the orange glow of the fire when he entered Julia's room.

"Without the dog, I don't know what would have happened," Eileen said. "We're all sound sleepers."

Bo, who is about two or three years old, was adopted in March from previous owners who were unable to look after him. He arrived just days after the Wackers' previous dog, Millie, died of old age at 16.

"We were meant to have that dog because he's brought so much joy to us," Eileen said.

One thing Bo has not been, however, is a barker. Before Monday morning he was known only to bark at the meter reader ... until he built up a grudging acceptance of him, Eileen said.

The sound of the fire Monday awoke neighbors across the street, who called 911. By that time, the Wackers were escaping to their backyard.

"I heard noise and I just sensed something was wrong," neighbor Claude Valliere said. "I thought someone was messing around with my house. That's how loud it was."

In retrospect, Valliere realizes the sound he heard was the snapping of wood beams in the Wackers' garage.

"Anyone who's had a fire pit in their backyard, take that sound and multiply it by 20," Valliere said.

What most bothered Valliere after his wife placed the 911 call was that there was no sign of the Wackers.

"I panicked because I didn't see any of them out," he said. "They were in the backyard. I set my car alarm off and they came around the side of the house."

Though the nervous wait for firefighters seemed to take an eternity, the truth is that they arrived quite quickly, Valliere said.

A total of 22 firefighters from three fire departments responded to the scene. No injuries were reported.

The firefighters extended two hose lines to the structure -- one to the garage, and the other to the first floor of the house, where the fire had spread. The fire was brought under control by 3:24 a.m., officials said.

The garage and first-floor utility room sustained significant damage, and the home had smoke damage throughout, leaving it uninhabitable for the Wackers, who were able to stay the night with family in the area.

Two vehicles parked in the driveway also sustained damage. An estimated cost of damages was not immediately available Monday.

The Wackers said they had not yet received an estimate of how long it would take their home to be repaired, but Eileen said everyone was feeling thankful to Bo for their escape.

Neighbors and restoration workers joked that Bo had definitely earned himself a steak dinner.

Eileen and Jim also have two sons in college, Colin and Evan, whom they contacted later Monday morning to tell them about the fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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