A St. Louis County mother and her children survived a fire because neighbors were on alert.

The family didn't even realize their Ellisville home was burning until people in the community showed up to help.

It happened on Marsh Avenue near Clarkson Road Monday morning.

The first person to noticed the fire was Dr. Carter Smith, a veterinarian who works across the street from the home.

“I was coming into work, it was about quarter to 8,” he remembers. “I looked over and saw at the house there was some smoke.”

He turned around to check, and realized the flames were growing. So Dr. Smith quickly got out of the car and ran to the house to alert the residents. He started banging on their door.

“I just pounded and pounded and it took about 20 seconds for them to open the door,” he said. There wasn’t smoke in the house at that point, but that fire was really going quickly.”

Cara Moylan rents the home with her boyfriend and two children. He was at work, she said -- but she was home sick with the kids and still asleep when the banging started.

“It sounded like the FBI coming through my door,” she remembers. “He just said 'get out of the house, your house is on fire!'”

About that same time, Dawn Krause was driving nearby on Clarkson Road. She saw the fire too, but didn’t hear sirens. She decided to call her husband, Mike Krause, who is also chief of the Metro West Fire Protection District.

“I said, ‘Hey, are you going to the fire on Marsh?’ And he said, ‘What are you talking about?’” she remembers.

So Krause called the fire department to alert them of the flames. She also turned her car around, and headed toward the house. When she arrived, she found Moylan and her kids already outside and safe. But the family’s two dogs were still inside. Moylan was frantic.

“We got over to a neighbor’s driveway where the kids were in a car and I stayed with the kids from there,” Krause said. “The [firefighters] did an incredible job and she just needed some reassurance that everything was going to be ok.”

Firefighters soon found the family’s dogs hidden under a bed, but unharmed, and brought them outside to safety.

The house, however, sustained serious damage. Firefighters say the fire started outside, which is why smoke detectors didn’t sound and the occupants of the home didn’t immediately realize what was going on.

Moylan didn’t know Dr. Smith or Krause prior to their, but credits them with helping save her family.

“I think it’s unbelievable. I think it’s the kind of thing that restores faith in humanity, and I think there needs to be a lot more people like that,” she said.

“All I did was paid attention,” said Dr. Smith, who is quick to defer the credit. “And when something didn’t look right, I’m just so thankful for that little voice that said, 'no, there’s something wrong,' and turned around.”

Dr. Smith helped the family monitor the dogs’ health throughout the week at Ellisville Veterinary Hospital. Both animals are fine, and Dr. Smith also provided the family with a fresh supply of food, treats, and pet medicine -- all of which they lost during the fire.

“It’s been unbelievably heartwarming and kind of hard to accept, but appreciated,” Moylan said.

The Krauses, who also live in the area, say this is just how the community works.

“There were so many caring hearts, it all just came from such an altruistic place to help a family that was really in need,” Dawn said.