A fire early Wednesday morning in central Iowa could’ve been much worse if not for a smoke detector. West Des Moines firefighters were called to a home just after 2:30 a.m. and found fire and smoke coming from the back of the house.

Fire Chief Donald Cox says a man and his wife, their daughter, and two dogs all made it out safely. “When we arrived, they were all outside and had taken their pets out of the home,” Cox said.

“That’s one of the best things we can ever see is people outside and the smoke detectors going off.” The fire was extinguished a short time later and damage was contained to an area around a hot water heater.

The home is located in a neighborhood which firefighters canvassed a couple weeks ago – offering free, fresh batteries for smoke detectors. The homeowner had already changed the batteries on his own.

“He did comment that he did have fresh batteries in there and it was primarily because of the attention the media was giving it and the importance of changing your batteries,” Cox said. West Des Moines was one of 25 departments across the country chosen by Energizer for the free battery program.

Cox is encouraging Iowans who might not be able to change their batteries, regardless of the reason, to call their local fire department. “I think residents are often reluctant to do that – they think they only interact with the fire department through 911 in an emergency,” Cox said.

“All the fire departments, I know, would be more than happy to come out and assist a resident so we can prevent the loss of life.” The exact cause of the fire in West Des Moines remains under investigation.