The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Cold-blooded tortoise starts Christmas fire at family’s home

A 45-year-old tortoise in England knocked over a heat lamp and set a small fire, causing a smoke alarm to go off. (Essex County Fire and Rescue Service)

Sometime after 4 p.m. on Christmas Day, the smoke alarm started blaring at a house in the English town of Great Dunmow.

A small fire had sparked when a heat lamp toppled over onto a blanket.

The culprit: a middle-aged tortoise who may or may not have been trying to burn his family’s house down. Thankfully, the local fire department raced to the scene.

The minor conflagration started after the tortoise knocked a heat lamp onto its bedding, which then caught fire. Its owners weren’t home, so the neighbors alerted the authorities.

A volunteer fire crew arrived at the house to find it filled with smoke and a fire burning in one of the rooms. They rescued the tortoise and ensured the house was clear.

“It’s his lucky day,” the Essex fire department posted on Facebook, along with a photo of the would-be arsonist serving rescuers a hefty serving of side-eye and not at all looking as if rescuers had just foiled its plot to burn its owner’s house down.

The 45-year-old reptile “will now hopefully continue to live a long and happy life, thanks to working smoke alarms," said Gary Wain, watch manager at the Great Dunmow Fire Station. “This incident shows just how important it is to have smoke alarms on every level of your home."

Especially if you have a tortoise.

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