20 dogs rescued from N.J. fire

A firefighter gives oxygen to a puppy, after pulling the pet out of a house fire in Mercer County, New Jersey.

April 3, 2012 3:56:24 PM PDT
Firefighters rescued 20 dogs from a burning home in Mercer County, New Jersey Monday night.

The fire started just before 8:00 p.m. on the 2300 block of Pennington Road in Hopewell Township.

Police say 49-year-old Ramona Burnett, who rents an apartment inside the house, came home to discover her 13-year-old son outside the building. When she entered her apartment she smelled smoke and found fire in her son's bedroom on the first floor.

Police and firefighters arrived to find heavy fire in the rear of the house. They went inside and found the dogs.

"I was a little concerned at first because the pups were so like non-responsive and stuff like that. We'd give them air and they'd kind of move but these were babies, their eyes weren't even open yet," said James Brundage of the Lawrence Road Fire Company.

The tiniest puppies were brought out clinging to each other piled in a fireman's hat. Volunteers from the nearby Lawrence Road Fire Co. cradled the animals in their arms while using specialized pet oxygen masks donated recently by the Humane Society to help revive the dogs, which ranged in age from about two weeks to two years old.

"One turned into five, turned into 20 and the more dogs they brought out we just kept hooking them up to the oxygen, bringing them back to life and putting them in the cage," said Chris Laird of the Lawrence Road Fire Company.

"As you start to give them oxygen you can feel them start to come back and kick and start to fight," said firefighter James Brundage. "Once they start to kick back and fight you know they're okay."

The masks, donated to 4 area fire companies in January by the Humane Society, come in 3 sizes and can be used on dogs, cats, guinea pigs, even something as small as a bird.

The home's occupants escaped. Unfortunately, one dog perished in the fire and on Tuesday 4 two-week-old puppies had to be euthanized because they were in such bad shape.

Still, firefighters are focusing on how one simple piece of equipment helped to save most of the animals pulled out of the burning house.

"I've got two dogs of my own and I love them so it touched my heart that we could save all those dogs," said firefighter Keith Kent.

With their owner left homeless and nowhere to go after the blaze was put out, a neighbor who runs a towing company generously agreed to keep the dogs and pups that didn't require vet care overnight.

"At first I was asked if I could take three, then it ended up at 13!" said Desiree Brennan. "I didn't know how to say no. I couldn't. After I saw them and I knew they didn't have anywhere to go last night, I just wholeheartedly volunteered."

Hopewell Animal Control officer Bob English picked up the dogs on Tuesday morning and is hoping to find temporary shelter for them. He'll also be looking into why so many dogs were in one house.

Meanwhile, firefighters are thrilled that the simple pet oxygen masks they carry on the Rescue 22 truck were able to help revive so many of the dogs.

"People have all these different pets at their houses nowadays. We're trying to be versatile, not just humans. I mean we save everything possible in the house including objects and people's pets," said Kris Palmer, President of the Lawrence Road Fire Company.