Nov. 15, 2012 -- A 44-year-old Illinois firefighter was killed this week after a family dog that she had recently adopted suddenly attacked her at her home.
Dawn Brown, a full-time firefighter for the Bristol-Kendall Fire Department and a part-time paramedic for the Big Rock Fire Protection District, was mauled Monday by a mastiff that she had just welcomed into her house in the last month.
Her co-workers for the Big Rock Fire Department were the first responders to the scene of the attack.
Lt. Pat Gengler of the Kane County Sheriff's Office told ABC News that a 911 call came in on Monday around 4:15 p.m. from Brown's husband, who had returned home to find his wife -- home alone at the time -- injured. Members of the volunteer fire department down the street responded to the call immediately.
"As soon as they got there it was obvious that she had passed away," Gengler said. "We saw there were three dogs: a mastiff, a boxer and a pit bull mix. I'm not sure, but the mastiff was the issue. We processed the scene and waited for the autopsy. It came back that the injuries, the bite marks, were definitely from the mastiff. His jaws are so much bigger than the other dogs'."
Gengler said the mastiff bit Brown in the neck.
"I saw him from afar. He was a big dog, very strong, probably 150 pounds or more, I'm guessing," Gengler said. "He was very sturdy. I could see that you could see that dog from down the street and think, 'That's a really big dog, I don't want to go near him.'"
The mastiff was a new addition to the Brown family after some relatives with a newborn baby decided they no longer wanted the dog around.
"They had just gotten that dog from a family member a week ago. It hadn't been in the home very long," Gengler said. "The family member that gave it to them had a newborn in the house and didn't want the big dog. The Browns didn't have any kids. Their other dogs were like their kids, so they chose to take the dog into their home. It was so early on that there were no warning signs.
"We have no idea what caused the attack," he said.
For now, the dogs are in an animal control facility, Gengler added. Meanwhile, Brown's co-workers are struggling to come to grips with the tragic attack, according to Chief Michael Hitzemann of the Bristol-Kendall Fire Department.
"It has been complete shock. It's pretty much devastated our department," Hitzemann told ABC News. "Dawn's been on our department since June of 2007 and she is always upbeat, a very happy person, kind and caring, always willing to just help anybody out with anything -- it didn't matter what it was. She was a great cook. She was always the first person to pitch in to do whatever was asked. We could talk for hours about her life."
Hitzemann said his department, with some 29 full-time staffers, has held some counseling sessions in recent days.
"We are a very tight-knit family, so we're dealing with it as best we can," he said.
Brown's other unit -- the Big Rock Fire Department, which went to the home immediately after the attack – has been devastated by her death, too.
"They're her co-workers and her neighbors. This was a very tragic and traumatic event for the firefighters who had to go to that house and do what they had to do," Gengler said. "Seeing the look on the people that worked with her, you just knew what she meant to them."
A memorial service is set for Saturday in Big Rock, Ill.