Patty Reeder has a message for her fellow dog owners: Take the knobs off your stove when you’re not using it.
Firefighters think that may have been the cause of a Saturday afternoon fire that destroyed much of Reeder’s kitchen and damaged the rest of the house with smoke and soot, she said.
“My dogs are big enough they can jump up and look around, and they were probably looking for a Milk Bone – I keep a box on my counter,” Reeder said. “They (firefighters) think one of them (dogs) hit the burner button and turned it on … so it just smoldered and smoldered and smoldered and caught the microwave – which is stationary above it – on fire, then the ceiling.”
Reeder said it was through a series of miracles that the house is still standing and that all of her three dogs (and one pet snake) are still alive. Reeder, who is well-known locally as the owner of Mosley Street Melodrama and as an actress in shows at Roxy’s Downtown, the Forum Theatre and others, also works with rescue dogs in the Wichita area.
‘No rhyme or reason’
She was working the box office at Mosley Street Melodrama in Old Town early Saturday afternoon and was overseeing a rehearsal until 3 p.m., she said.
Then she decided to go home – around 21st and Tyler – to check on her dogs. Her chocolate lab/hound dog mix had ACL surgery on a ligament in his leg three weeks ago and was supposed to be resting for three more weeks.
“There was no rhyme or reason for me coming home two hours early,” Reeder said. “I just left rehearsal for some reason, went home, and it was on fire.”
I JUST LEFT REHEARSAL FOR SOME REASON, WENT HOME, AND IT WAS ON FIRE.
Patty Reeder, local actress
The house was so full of smoke she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face, she said – just the flames in the kitchen area.
She went to her bedroom on hands and knees and began feeling around for her dogs – they wouldn’t come when she called – interspersed with the ear-piercing sound of her fire alarm.
One by one, she found her three dogs – a Rottweiler, Chubbs; the chocolate lab/hound mix, Newt; and German shepherd mix, Rascal – and carried them down the stairs.
And that was no easy task, she said: Her dogs weigh between 65 and 90 pounds each.
“I never thought I could carry my fat Rottweiler downstairs – I had never attempted that,” Reeder said. “I just reacted. I didn’t have time to really think. … In turn, I think I tore (Newt’s) ACL again. I hope not, but I had to get him out. I had no choice.”
By the time she got all three dogs out, Wichita firefighters were there.
But her bull python snake was still inside. Firefighters located the snake in a spare bedroom with the door shut and deemed the snake safe where it was, as the fire had been put out by then.
Reeder had to go to a local hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation injuries, and her dogs seem to be doing fine despite the high amounts of smoke they inhaled, she said.
She and her husband, Bryan Hitchcock (who was stage-managing the Mosley Street show at the time of the fire), and her pets are staying at a dog-friendly hotel.
Since Saturday, Wichita’s theater community has rallied to help her and her family, raising more than $3,000 in a couple of days on a Youcaring page. (It’s under Patty and Bryan’s House Fire Recovery.)
Reeder said a large chunk of the money raised would likely go to fund another surgery for Newt’s ACL.
She said she “broke down crying” when she heard of the donations that were pouring in from the community.
“They’ve been so wonderful,” she said. “There’s so many things you need that you aren’t aware of, so you’re absolutely without anything.”
People have brought food, coats, toiletries, gift cards, cash and other items to Mosley Street Melodrama to help.
Though it may take months for her life to return to normal, Reeder said, she’s just thankful no one was seriously injured in the fire, and she’s glad she left the theater early.
“If I had been there when I was supposed to be at 3, the whole house would have been burned to the ground – all the dogs would have been dead,” she said. “Something brought me there, and I’m just thankful.”
Special thanks to Matt Riedl and Wichita Eagle