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Alarms, dog aid escape from Levittown fire

Lilly, a 1-year-old mixed breed, helped alert a

Lilly, a 1-year-old mixed breed, helped alert a woman, her twin 11-year-old daughters and another child to a raging fire that destroyed their Prentice Road home in Levittown. (Feb. 24, 2012) Credit: Jim Staubitser (left); Kevin Imm

A Levittown mother and three children escaped serious injury early Friday morning when smoke alarms and a barking dog alerted them to a fire in their home, family members said.

The woman, Kim Argento, 45, her twins and their friend suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment and released.

Argento said she had been in bed for barely 10 minutes when the family dog, Lilly, left her side, went downstairs and returned.

"She jumped up and started barking right in my face," Argento said. "At the same moment the alarms went off."

Argento ran downstairs, saw the flames outside the house, near the living room and dining room area, and tried to put them out with a fire extinguisher.

"I tried two squirts and I said it was too much," Argento said Friday.

She ran upstairs to the children's room to rouse her 11-year-old twins and their 10-year-old friend, who was sleeping over. All four escaped.

Scott Fisher, chief of the Levittown Fire Department, said the blaze started outside in the back of the house, on Prentice Road. The flames climbed up the wall and onto the second floor, he said.

"The fire burned a hole in the roof," Fisher said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.

A firefighter dislocated a knee and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Argento's husband, Timothy, was at work in the Bronx when the fire broke out at 12:44 a.m. and his wife called.

"She screamed at me, 'The house is on fire,' " Argento said, adding he later learned that Lilly, the family dog, had helped alert his family.

He called 1-year-old, mixed-breed Lilly "a hero," explaining that he hadn't wanted the "mutt" when his wife brought the dog home months ago.

Still, when he learned it was smoke alarms and his barking dog that alerted his wife and the children to the raging fire, he now has a newfound love for the dog, Argento said.

Joanne Yohannan, of North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, said Lilly had been on a list to be euthanized before being brought to Long Island -- and then being adopted by the family last July.

"We actually rescued Lilly as part of our national humane relocation program . . . from a municipal shelter in Tennessee. Her life was saved by the family -- and now she returned the favor by saving their life," Yohannan said later Friday.

As he stood before the boarded-up shell of his house early Friday, Argento said, "The fire alarm was going off. The dog was barking. I'm blessed. What can you say? Everyone's OK. Everyone's safe."

With Jim Staubitser

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