A Van Buren couple escaped injury when an early morning fire destroyed a home at the corner of 13th and Chestnut on Wednesday.

Terry and Christina Bowen were able to get themselves and their two dogs from the house at 216 S. 13th St. before it became fully engulfed in flames.

The couple’s four children had spent the night with their grandfather.

Christina Bowen said she and her husband were awakened by their dogs when the heater caught fire.

“We got the dogs out and Terry was going to go back in but there was smoke everywhere,” Bowen said.

Van Buren Fire Department Staff Officer Stanley Clark said investigators believe the fire started in the heating unit.

“We are working to confirm if the fire was electrical or related to overheating in the heating unit,” he said. “Sometimes, in the winter, the heating units get overworked.”

Christina Bowen said the children had gone to stay at their grandfather’s home because the heating unit would only heat the rented home to 58 degrees on Tuesday. She also said the water pipes had frozen.

“We felt it was best the children stay with their grandfather because of these issues,” she said.

Clark said VBFD received the call at 6:46 a.m. Wednesday and were on the scene within four minutes.

“Because it was at shift change, we dispatched four trucks and had maybe 25 firefighters on the scene,” he said.

Clark said it took firefighters two hours to knock down the fire.

“We then had to bring in a trackhoe to tear down the walls to get to any remaining fire,” he said.

Firefighters also rescued a four-foot python the Bowens had been unable to get from the residence, which is owned by James Suggs.

The house was a total loss and will have to be leveled once the investigation is completed, Clark said.