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Great Dane hailed a hero after barking his family awake as fire engulfed their home

The 185-pound dog started barking early Tuesday morning to alert his family about the fire before smoke detectors went off.

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A Great Dane named Ralph is being called a hero after he recently barked his family awake when a fire broke out at their home in Shelby County, Alabama.

"He's always there, he's always paying attention, he's always there to take care of us," Derek Walker said.

Walker said the 185-pound dog started barking early Tuesday morning to alert his family about the fire before smoke detectors went off.

"We were all asleep, it was a little after 2 o'clock in the morning," Walker said. "It could've been really, really, really bad."

Walker and his wife then scrambled to grab what they could and rush their children and Ralph outside of the burning home.

North Shelby Fire Chief Buddy Tyler said the fire started on an outdoor grill and spread quickly to the rest of the home.

"To be awakened like that, this could have been a tragic event. We could have had four deaths, very easily, in this circumstance" he said.

Tyler said he recommends as many smoke detectors as possible throughout every home, including at least one in each bedroom and one on every level of the house, including basement and attic spaces.

A crowdfunding effort is underway to help the Walker family, who lost nearly all of their belongings in the fire.