As the flames licked around them, the firefighters refused to leave the building. They had a job to do, and one of the victims was still in the choking smoke. Then, they spotted the dog and dragged it outside, desperately hoping they weren’t too late to save it.
The dog in question was ten-year-old Nalu, a Shih Tzu-Bichon Frise cross. He lived with his human in Santa Monica, California, and it was there that disaster struck. On March 21, 2017, a fire began in the single-story apartment building, consuming everything.
The blaze began in one of the building’s kitchen areas, and it spread from there. The flames then leapt to the nearby storage units, where it caught hold and set the apartment alight. The building was occupied by Nalu and his mommy, Crystal Lamirande.
In fact, the 35-year-old radiology nurse was out of the apartment when the fire started. She must have got the shock of her life when she returned to her neighbor’s warning yells. Lamirande bravely dashed towards the burning building to look for her pet.
Despite a desperate attempt to reach Nalu, however, Lamirande’s efforts were beaten by the smoke pouring from the building. So all she could do was wait for the fire department to arrive. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the authorities came to tackle the blaze.
It was the Santa Monica Fire Department which answered the call. “[We] began receiving multiple 911 calls [to] report [a] structure fire,” the department wrote on its Facebook page in March 2017. “The first fire [engine] arrived on scene at 4:10 pm.”
In fact, it only took the fire service less than five minutes to respond to the emergency calls. And when they arrived at the scene, they found a distraught Lamirande. She told them about her dog, was still trapped in the building.
With this in mind, firefighters went about tackling the blaze on two fronts: tackling the roof and also the building’s interior. “Truck Company Firefighters placed ladders and ascended to the roof,” the service explained. “[They] cut a ventilation opening to allow for the release of super-heated smoke and fire gasses.”
In order to prevent the spread of the flames, the second team – the Engine Company Firefighters – went inside. And while one team worked hard to vent the area, the other was using water to douse the fire. Thanks to their combined efforts, the blaze was contained.
In the end, the fire was kept to the kitchen area, but Nalu was still missing. Nevertheless, the frantic search continued, headed by firefighter Andrew Klein. He had been crawling on his hands and knees through the smoke-choked apartment to find the pooch.
But just when it looked like Nalu was lost to the heat and smoke, Klein stumbled across the dog’s motionless form in the bedroom. “He was totally lifeless,” the firefighter told NBC News in March 2017. “I picked him up and ran out of the apartment.”
“[Time] is key, especially with a small dog,” Klein explained. “Failure was not an option.” Lamirande could do nothing but sob for Nalu as Klein placed her best friend’s limp form on the ground. “I stood there in shock,” she told the New York Daily News later that month.
“Then I followed them and was in shock. I’m a nurse and now I know how family members feel when they watch us do CPR on their family members. It’s awful.” Lamirande revealed that even though things looked extremely bad for Nalu, Klein refused to give up.
“[Nalu’s] eyes were glazed over and he was not breathing and I assumed he was dead,” she recounted. “The firefighter said, ‘I’m a positive person. Let’s just get him back.’” And with that, the fire crew tried everything they could to revive their patient.
Helped by a colleague, Klein subsequently began a process known as “mouth-to-snout resuscitation” on the little dog – essentially, CPR. For around 20 minutes, the fight for Nalu’s life continued, with Lamirande watching helplessly from the side lines. However, it was starting to look like a losing battle.
Klein refused to give up, though, and the Santa Monica Fire Department had a secret weapon. “[He] provided oxygen through [one of] our ‘Pet Oxygen Masks,’” the service explained on social media. “[It’s] a standard piece of equipment that all Santa Monica Fire Department units carry.
Suddenly, Nalu began to breathe again. And it wasn’t long before he started to recover. “After 20 minutes, the dog began breathing on its own and regained consciousness,” the service wrote. “[He] even regain[ed] the ability to walk around.” Nalu was taken to a veterinarian shortly after.
Not only was the fire extinguished in ten minutes, there were no other casualties. And after spending a day in an oxygen chamber, Nalu made a full recovery! “He’s been coughing but right now he’s fine and he’s so happy and smiling,” Lamirande told NBC news.
“It was pretty amazing, because I’ve been on a number of animal rescues like this that did not come out the same way that Nalu’s story did,” Klein told the New York Daily News in March 2017. “To see him kissing people and walking around wagging his tail was definitely a good feeling.”
“Our goal is to save people, and sometimes we’re not able to do that despite our best efforts,” Klein told ABC. “But to have a success story just like this, even with Nalu being a dog… he’s a life that matters. That was just a great morale booster for all of the guys here in our department.”