Video doorbell wakes up South Jersey couple during intense fire
NOTE: Video contains graphic language. A Wi-Fi enabled doorbell saved a Vineland family from a raging fire. Vineland Daily Journal
VINELAND – Smoke from an intense fire didn't set off alarms inside Anthony Rios' home early Monday morning but somehow triggered a video doorbell that alerted the sleeping Rios and his wife in time to escape.
The fire started inside their two-car garage sometime before 5 a.m. Monday, reducing it to ashes and crumbling planks of wood. Three cars, two inside the attached garage, were reduced to bare metal and three more damaged.
"That's one for the records," Vineland Fire Department Capt. Tony Saltar said of the role the doorbell played.
Saltar said it appears the smoke was thick enough to activate the Ring electronic doorbell's motion sensor, creating an impression of motion. The cause of the fire and why house fire detectors did not go off before the doorbell are part of the investigation, he said.
The doorbell alerted Rios to an ostensible visitor and transmitted video of what it was seeing to his cellphone. The doorbell did not survive the fire.
"If it wasn't for that Ring, this house — because it's a small house." Rios said.
Rios, a 46-year-old driver for UPS, at first thought maybe a co-worker or friend was blowing smoke past the doorbell as a joke. That impression faded as he left his bedroom and saw smoke curling through the house.
"So, I hoped out of bed and came out," Rios said. "When I came out the (bedroom) door, the house was filled with smoke and you felt the heat. You know what I mean. So, that was an indication to get out."
Saltar said the single-family house at 1701 W. Oak Road suffered fire damage on the side next to the garage and there was smoke damage inside.
Rios said firefighters came through the front door, moving through the house toward the garage to fight the fire.
Rios said the video doorbell was installed about two years ago on a side door, facing the garage, that the family tends to use instead of the front door facing Oak Road. He had bought it for the house as a kind of Christmas gift.
"We have a lot, so we said, 'This Christmas, we're going to buy for the house. We're not going to buy for each other,'" Rios said. "So, that was my gift for the house and she got other things for the house."
Rios said the doorbell went off at 5 a.m. Monday and about two minutes later the couple were outside. It is not designed to serve as an alarm, but Rio said it really was a lifesaver that morning.
"The way that fire moved through there, if we had stayed in that bed, 15 more minutes?" Rios said. "The whole house would have been in flames. I mean, you can take a walk in the house. everything is just singed. Like I said, our alarm clock didn't go off 'til 5:30."
Rios is a car enthusiast and the losses include two sports cars, "his babies," a Nissan 350 ZX and a Mercedes SL 500 that were inside the garage. A Jetta, parked alongside the garage, was the third write-off.
"About quarter after 5, the cars were exploding," he said. "All three cars exploded. They said it was the cars that made it go up. If you notice on this car, it burnt the doors off. It burnt the roof. That was a hardtop convertible."
Rios said UPS has given him time off and made a donation to the family. "I love my job," he said.
The house and vehicles are insured, he said.
Joseph P. Smith; jpsmith_dj; (856) 563-5252; email@example.com
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