A FIRE that destroyed a house at Teven is being treated by police as suspicious.
The house was part of a deceased estate after the owner died in June this year and occupied only by the late owner's dog, Patches.
Patches was being cared for by a nearby family member and was at the two-storey brick and timber house when the fire started some time after 10pm on Monday.
The dog might have become the fire's only victim, but an alert neighbour rescued the dog from the back shed as the flames took control.
Leslie Sanderson said she and her daughter, Tully-Morgan McNeil heard cracking and smelled smoke about 10.30pm Monday and ran to the house.
She did not know then that the house's owner had died and was calling out to him when she saw the dog at the back of the property.
"Patches was just sitting in the shed watching the flames," she said.
"She was not on a leash and when she didn't run away another neighbour and I went in to get her.
"I thought she looked pretty savage but when I picked her up she licked me on the face."
The house, 500m from the junction of of Teven and Tintenbar roads, was well alight when Ballina Fire and Rescue arrived at the scene at 10.50pm.
It took 45 minutes to get the fire under control and Alstonville-Wollongbar Rural Fire Service volunteers were still hosing down the fire yesterday morning.
Police from the Forensic Services Group also attended.
Detective Sergeant Ashley Bryant from Ballina police said the property was in the hands of the public trustee and police were interviewing all interested parties.
"It will take a number of weeks to interview everyone and then it will be a matter for the coroner to determine whether a known person is responsible," he said.
Ms Sanderson was yesterday helping Patches through her ordeal, giving her a bath and a massage.
"We are waiting to hear from the owners but we would love to give her a home here for the rest of her life," she said.