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Voice calling for help in Penn. fire was parrot

By Carl Lindquist
The York Dispatch (Pennsylvania)
Copyright 2006 York Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The natural tendency of parrots to repeat words added a strange twist to a fire Thursday in an East Hopewell Township home by misleading firefighters and neighbors into thinking someone was left inside.

The fire broke out in a bedroom at 14668 Sally Ann Road shortly before 9 p.m., said Eureka Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Ira Walker Jr.

Four people and two parrots were inside the home when the fire broke out. A woman, man, teenage son and child were able to escape.

But neighbors and responding firefighters heard at least one voice saying “Help I can’t breathe! Get out of the house!” according to Walker.

After consulting with the home’s occupants, firefighters quickly realized that there was no one inside the home, Walker said.

Instead, at least one of the parrots was repeating words spoken by people trying to escape the blaze.

“It was just a funny twist to the story,” Walker said.

The end result of the fire was not humorous, however. Though everyone escaped, the occupants were displaced.

Walker said it took about 10 minutes for firefighters to extinguish the blaze, which had started to shoot outside the bedroom window and burn through where the home’s wall met the roof.

The blaze was started when a piece of clothing caught fire after falling onto a lamp, Walker said.

The teenage boy was in the bedroom when the fire began and noticed the smoke, Walker said. He alerted the man, and at least one of them tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher.

But the fire was too big, and firefighters were called to the scene.

All four people inside and the two parrots escaped without injury, Walker said. No firefighters were injured.

Walker estimated damage at $100,000 and said the home is uninhabitable because of smoke and heat damage.

The York County Chapter of the American Red Cross was on the scene to assist the home’s occupants.