Two paramedics responding to an early-morning house fire on Browns Church Road saved a dog from smoke inhalation, administering oxygen to the struggling canine and salvaging life in an otherwise tragic situation.
The house fire occurred on Friday, March 21, destroying the single-story home at 2555 Browns Church Road, Clinton, where owner and occupant Henritta Kirby lived with her grandson, Sonny Kirby.
Sampson County fire marshal Jerry Cashwell said the blaze, which originated in a large walk-in closet next to the single-story home’s laundry room, is still being investigated. The Kirbys, who were able to escape the home uninjured, are said to be staying with relatives — thanks to those two local paramedics, that also includes their fuzzy boxer mix.
Sampson County EMS was dispatched with local fire departments and, upon arriving at the Browns Church Road home, paramedics Scott Phillips and Kevin Hall found the dog laying on the ground in severe respiratory distress. The family had retrieved the dog from the burning home just moments earlier and smoke had filled the boxer’s lungs.
“The family had gotten the dog out of the house, but the dog was laying on the ground, gasping for air, limp and almost lifeless,” said Sampson County EMS supervisor Erick Herring, who lauded Phillips and Hall for their quick response. “They gave him some oxygen.”
Smoke and fire quickly engulfed the older, wood-frame ranch style home on Browns Church Road. As firefighters fought the flames, Phillips and Hall surveyed the area to see who needed assistance.
“When we arrived at the address, the home was involved,” said Phillips. “We heard a yelp. The dog was laying on the ground and the guy was pushing on his chest to try to help him. He was taking his last breaths.”
Phillips and Hall looked at each other and knew what they needed to do. They quickly told the Kirbys what they wanted to do, and Phillips grabbed a mask and placed it on the dog and Hall retrieved the tank. A blanket was put over the canine due to the chill that morning and oxygen slowly started to enter the dog’s lungs.
After a whole D cylinder oxygen tank and half of another — around 45 minutes of oxygen, roughly 3,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) — the dog started coming around.
“He was wobbly and staggering around, but he was OK,” said Phillips, who never thought twice about helping out the canine. “I’ve got dogs. I definitely don’t want to see anybody’s dog like that.”
Both the men went “above and beyond” in providing medical aid to the dog, Herring said.
“It makes me proud that Sampson County EMS has personnel within our organization that will take the time and effort to go the extra mile and provide assistance when needed, especially when it’s something that is not normally the norm,” the EMS supervisor said.
While there are pet oxygen masks at their disposal, just as there are on many fire trucks throughout the county, the paramedics grabbed the first mask they could.
“It seemed to work fine,” said Herring. “After they gave him oxygen he started perking up.”
Treating pets for smoke inhalation is not out of the ordinary, but is not a regular occurrence either.
“It’s fairly rare,” Herring noted. “If we run across it, we can help. Fortunately, we don’t run across it often. We try to do anything we can, whether it is a human or an animal, to save a life that needs saving. I am real proud of the guys. It was something they didn’t have to do and they did it. I’m proud of them for taking that extra step to do something that is not necessarily inside the daily scope of their duties.”
For the paramedics the incident was the first time they had been confronted with such a situation. Phillips, a dog lover himself, said caring for animals is close to his heart. The same goes for Hall, he said.
“That was the first time he or I had done anything like that for an animal,” Phillips remarked. “We just kind of looked at each other and said it won’t hurt him and it might save him. The grandson was very appreciative. The dog was a stray that they took care of.”
Phillips said he was humbled by the reaction of the family, who was grateful the dog could be saved despite the hardships suddenly thrust upon them.
“They had just lost their home, but they were thankful the dog was saved,” the paramedic said.
The family was not able to be immediately contacted due to their displaced circumstances, and Phillips said he did not know the name of the dog, but suggested “Smoky” would be an apt nickname. He said he did not know someone was there to capture images from the dog’s rescue, and said he was just doing something any dog lover in his position would.
“Kevin’s had dogs, I’ve had dogs since I can remember. I’ve always been around dogs,” Phillips said. “To see one struggling like that … dogs can’t take care of themselves, you have to, and that’s just what we were doing.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.