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Dog hailed a hero for alerting his owner to a neighborhood fire

When neighbors thanked him for waking them and calling for help, Chad McCollum replied: ‘It wasn’t me. I would be dead asleep if it weren’t for my dog’

Charlie, a 2-year-old Australian labradoodle, alerted his owner to a nearby fire in Clovis, Calif. (Chad McCollum)
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Charlie — a 2-year-old Australian labradoodle — rarely whines or barks.

“When he does, it gets our attention,” said his owner, Chad McCollum.

McCollum said it was Charlie’s incessant and uncharacteristic barking that alerted him to a fast-moving fire in his Clovis, Calif., neighborhood on April 28.

About 2:45 a.m., Charlie began barking relentlessly. McCollum and his wife were sleeping soundly and awoke to the commotion. McCollum decided to take the dog out to the yard, thinking Charlie might have to relieve himself. But he didn’t. The barking got louder and more persistent.

“I was afraid he was going to wake the neighbors,” said McCollum, who has two children, ages 10 and 13. “I was a little frustrated.”

Charlie refused to come back inside, which was also unusual for him, and he continued barking toward one corner of the yard. McCollum checked out what the dog was fixated on. That’s when he saw a faint orange glow and plumes of smoke two streets away.

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“Oh, that’s not right,’” McCollum recalled thinking.

He brought Charlie inside, put on shoes and sprinted to the scene, where he saw a growing blaze. An RV between two homes was on fire, and the flames were starting to spread to the exteriors of the adjacent houses.

McCollum called 911, then pounded on the front doors of both homes, yelling for the residents to wake up.

“I was running back-and-forth, just trying to bang on the doors,” he said. “It’s starting to be a pretty big fire at this point.”

Within a few minutes, the families in both homes came outside, just as emergency responders showed up. At that point, the flames were about 20 feet tall, he said.

“The firefighters worked really quickly to put out the fire,” said McCollum, who stayed with the families while the flames were being extinguished. “I was just in shock, as was everyone else.”

When his neighbors — whom he did not know before the fire — tried to thank him for waking them and calling for help, McCollum replied: “It wasn’t me. I would be dead asleep if it weren’t for my dog.”

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“I wouldn’t have woken up. There is no way,” he said. “He alerted us to danger, and it made a difference.”

Canines can, in fact, detect fire — because of their strong sense of smell and sound. Last month, a dog in Florida alerted its owner to a nearby barn fire, and there are several similar stories of pets warning people about danger — and even rescuing them during a crisis.

McCollum said his children were “super proud” of Charlie and gave him “good belly rubs and treats” after the fire. Beyond the companionship pets offer, he said, “there’s a reason we have them in our lives.”

Stephen Quick, whose home was damaged in the fire, is grateful to Charlie for his sharp senses — which, he said, very well might have saved his family from a far worse outcome. He and his two teenage sons, as well as their two golden retrievers, managed to escape unscathed.

“We 100 percent would not be alive today if it weren’t for Charlie,” said Quick, explaining that none of the fire alarms in the house went off because the flames were outdoors. “If it weren’t for Charlie, and if it weren’t for Chad, we wouldn’t be here.”

“I have a lot of gratitude,” Quick continued, adding that he and his sons delivered a basket of bones and treats to thank Charlie.

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Quick and his sons are staying at a friend’s house. The damage to their home, he said, is extensive, and they are going through an insurance assessment. He estimates that about half the house will need to be replaced, and the majority of the damage is to the roof and rafters.

After an investigation into the fire, authorities arrested a 47-year-old man on May 3. Police alleged that he threw several explosives at the RV, which was parked on the side yard of Quick’s home. The man was charged with multiple felonies, including arson, child endangerment, stalking and possession of a destructive device.

“This was not a random act. It was targeted,” said Ty Wood, a public information officer for the Clovis Police Department.

Wood and Quick declined to elaborate on why Quick’s home would be targeted.

“Luckily, there were no injuries,” Wood said. If not for Charlie and his owner’s rapid response, “it could have been much worse.”

To commemorate Charlie’s lifesaving instincts, the Clovis Fire Department gave him a “junior firefighter” hat and a badge, and neighbors made him a makeshift medal that says “HERO” on it.

“The incident is a great reminder that dogs are amazing,” the fire department wrote in a Facebook post.

McCollum agreed.

“It gave me a bigger appreciation for my dog,” he said. “He was able to really make a difference when it was needed.”