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Sun reflected off dog dish ignites Bennett Valley house fire

Terry and Shay Weisbrich tucked in Wednesday night feeling grateful and astonished that their Bennett Valley country home was not devoured by a fire ignited by a sunbeam refracted onto the wooden house by the dog's shiny water bowl.

"It's a good thing we got to it in time because there's a pretty good-sized hole burned in the siding," Terry Weisbrich said.

A flabbergasted Bennett Valley Fire Department engineer, Rene Torres, said he and his colleagues had no idea what had charred a small area of the cedar siding on the house off of Pressley and Sonoma Mountain roads — until he noticed an empty chrome bowl on the deck.

Terry Weisbrich said he'd kicked it aside as he rushed to aim a fire extinguisher on the piece of siding that began smoldering sometime before 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Firefighter Torres asked him where the water bowl had been before he moved it. Weisbrich returned the bowl to its original position on the deck.

"It was uncanny," Torres said. In an instant, he said, "There was a dot of concentrated light right in that exact area" of the charred siding.

The Weisbrichs, who are retired, suspect they might have lost the house on a notably hot, dry and breezy May Day had they not been at home when their dog, Toby, a flat-coated retriever, began to bark excitedly.

"This dog does not bark," Terry Weisbrich said.

His wife walked about to investigate what Toby was worked up about. Through a glass door at the rear of the house she noticed what she first thought was steam but quickly realized was smoke.

She shouted to her husband, "We've got a fire!"


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