Retired firefighter, dog named Pumpkin credited for saving Bowie woman

Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady says a retired Prince George’s County fire fighter pulled a 36 year old disabled woman from her burning Bowie, Md. home early Friday after a black lab alerted him to her location in the house. (Hamil Harris/The Washington Post)

Prince George’s County fire department officials said a retired firefighter and a black Labrador retriever named Pumpkin helped save a woman in a wheelchair Friday moments before her home was engulfed by fire.

Department spokesman Mark Brady said the woman, 36, was taken to a hospital, where she was in serious but stable condition.

Brady said retired fire lieutenant Billy Mills was stopped at a light at Route 301 North and Mitchellville Road about 10 a.m. when he saw black smoke.

“I knew it was a house fire, because house fires smell differently than brush fires,” Mills said.

He parked his car at a church and headed toward the rear of a house in the 16300 block of Pond Meadow Lane, where members of Bowie Pointer Ridge Station 843 were approaching from the front.

Mills said he “kicked the gate in and a black dog came charging at me.” He closed the gate and backed out. But Mills said he reached out his hand toward the dog. “He smelled it. I opened the gate,” Mills said. “He started jumping around, and he took off toward the house.”

Mills said he looked through a sliding-glass door and spotted a woman on the floor.

“I opened the door and got down on my knees,” he said. “I crawled to her and grabbed her by the coat and said, ‘We have to get out.’ The dog really clued me in.”

The two-story single-family home was gutted, officials said. By Friday evening, charred wheelchairs and medical equipment belonging to the woman could be seen among the debris.

Mills said that in his more than two decades in the department, he had not rescued someone. “I was a career firefighter almost 21 years, and it has started to settle in that I actually made a difference in someone’s life,” he said.

But Mills wanted it known that he had help. “The dog was a huge part of why that lady is still here today,” he said. “They don’t say dogs are man’s best friends for nothing.”

Pumpkin was not injured but was taken to the Prince George’s Animal Shelter.

Hamil Harris is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of The Washington Post.
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