It's a nightmare no pet owner wants to think about: you get a call at work and rush home to find your apartment building in flames -- and your two little dogs are trapped inside.
It happened in Hillsborough County, but this story had a happy ending, thanks to the bravery and quick-thinking of the firefighters on the scene.
Everyone working at Rescue 20 in Hillsborough County on February 9th knew the fire was a big one when the call came in. Says Fire Medic Jeremy Johnson,
"You could actually see the column of smoke from our station and it was several miles away," said medic Jeremy Johnson.
Everyone got out alive and uninjured, but then there was a frantic plea from one of the people living at the Harbour Towne Apartments. His two Jack Russell terriers were locked in a bathroom.
Johnson says one of the firefighters went in and found them.
One of the dogs was fine. The other was in pretty bad shape.
"He was barely breathing. Just looked terrible. Didn't move at all. Just laid there on his side. We knew we had to do something," Johnson said.
They sprang into action, giving the dog oxygen through one of the masks normally used on people.
It worked: 20 minutes later, the dog was on its feet, back with its owner and walking around. Johnson says they were all relieved.
"I guess we saved one. It was pretty impressive. It's a good feeling," he said.
Even better, Rescue 20 is usually equipped with oxygen masks especially made for pets. Fire Medic Tony Lopez showed us how they work.
"These oxygen masks are for animals: dogs, anything really with a snout, a bill, ducks for instance. You can actually put little birds in here if you wanted to," he explained.
Each kit comes with three masks in sizes small, medium and large. But they're not inexpensive, and not all of Hillsborough County's rescue vehicles are equipped.
The Tampa Bay Agility Club is working to change that. They're raising money to purchase the kits, ten at a time, with a goal of making sure all 42 fire stations in the county have pet masks on their fire trucks and ambulances.
Rescue 20 in Town and Country will be one of the first to get a kit for its fire truck.
Lopez says he knows first hand, for a lot of people, saving a pet is saving family.
"I've lost a dog in a fire. It's kind of tragic. I was little. But to some people, it is their children," he said.
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