FAIRBANKS, Alaska (CBS Seattle/AP) — A family is alive today thanks to their cats that perished in the fire.

Jeff and Cheryl Meierotto and their 5-year-old daughter were sleeping early Saturday when their cats, Stripe and Rocky, began to make a ruckus, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.

“I believe if the cats hadn’t woken us up we wouldn’t be here,” Cheryl Meierotto told the newspaper. “The smoke alarm didn’t go off because there was nothing burning in the house. There was no smoke in house.”

According to the paper, Jeff Meierotto woke up about 12:30 a.m. from the noise the cats were making. “He went to kick them off the bed and that’s when he saw this orange glow outside,” his wife added.

The outside wall of the cabin was on fire. Cheryl Meierotto rushed downstairs and grabbed their daughter while her husband went to see if he could put out the fire.

“He opened the door and the flames were licking up under the deck and we couldn’t go out that way,” she said. “We turned around and went out the back door.

After the door was opened, the entire cabin filled with smoke. Cheryl Meierotto took their daughter outside while her husband went back into the burning house to look for the cats.

“I was outside waiting for him and it was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Cheryl Meierotto, said. “I was standing there trying to figure out if I go back in and find him or stay out there with my daughter. At about the point I was going to freak out, all of a sudden I saw him flying out of the house and he landed in the snow,” she said. ” He had to leap through a wall of fire to get out.

The paper reported that Jeff Meierotto suffered burns to his face, arm, leg and foot on his left side.

The couple feels there was little the fire department could have done to save the cabin since it burned so fast. It appears the fire started outside at an exhaust pipe for a stove and fuel tank. The house was destroyed, and the family also lost personal belongings, including photo albums, artwork and an ivory collection.

“What I take from this is that we had an opportunity to get out alive and we took it,” Cheryl Meierotto said. “The sad thing is the cats didn’t make it.”

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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