Elsa Bray woke shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday to her dog’s incessant barking.
Unsure what was bothering Biscotti, a 7-year-old Bichon Frise, Bray got up.
“She looked out the window and could see flames,” said Patricia Swarm, her daughter, retelling what her mother told her.
The fire occurred in the 7700 block of Glenmore Springs Way, Bethesda. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue investigators believe it started in or around an oil-filled space heater in Bray’s garage and quickly filled the house with smoke. Bray, 90, walked down the hallway to call down the stairs to Marjory Bray, her daughter-in-law, to call 911, Swarm said.
Two alert neighbors already had called firefighters, who responded at around 5:45 a.m., finding the garage “fully involved” in flames, Montgomery County Assistant Chief Scott Graham said.
Bray returned to her bedroom, and “the dog came running back in and stayed with her,” Swarm said.
“The smoke moved amazingly quickly,” Swarm said her mother told her.
By the time firefighters could get her out of the back bedroom, she was already overcome by the smoke, Swarm said. Bray was taken to Suburban Hospital before she was flown to MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, Swarm said.
“Biscotti gave me more than I ever gave Biscotti,” Bray told The Gazette on Friday.
Firefighters were unable to retrieve Biscotti in time. She was cremated Thursday night.
“(The dog is) all she talks about,” said Swarm, who spoke with The Gazette from her mother’s hospital room where Bray is recuperating from smoke inhalation she suffered in the fire.
Fire officials estimate the damage from the fire at about $200,000, although Swarm said she believed in the end the number will probably be higher.
“The smoke damage alone is through the entire house,” Swarm said, adding that in one part of the house, “an intercom on the wall was totally melted just from smoke heat, not from the fire.”
Elsa Bray and her now-deceased husband built the house almost 50 years ago.
The fire also severely damaged two cars that were parked in the driveway, she said, describing one, a Suburban, as “totally gutted,” and “melting” the front of her mother’s Toyota Camry.
But their thoughts are on the little Bichon.
“That dog did so much,” Swarm said, adding that without Biscotti’s barking, “they wouldn’t have been awake at all.”