AUG. 9, 2015 UPDATE: A luncheon will be held Aug. 20 at a Sherman Oaks fire station to raise funds for the purchase of a new search-and-rescue dog for Jason Chapman. Search-and-rescue puppies-in-training Toast and Zuko will be attending “to give lots of furry puppy love,” according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. For more information, visit the Los Angeles FD Facebook page.
While he was out on duty Tuesday night, a fire broke out at the two-story Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., home of Jason Chapman, a firefighter/paramedic with the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Matthew Hawker happened to be passing by the house when he saw smoke and heard Chapman’s wife, Joy, screaming. The 17-year-old stopped to help.
Joy, who had already jumped off a second-floor balcony, told Hawker her 5-year-old son, Brayden, was still inside the house.
Putting a ladder on top of a barbecue, Hawker was able to climb up to the balcony. He went inside and, through thick smoke, found the little boy as well as two dogs, and carried them out to safety.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Hawker told the San Bernardino Sun. “When I ran into the house, I wasn’t thinking about the danger. I just thought about getting that boy out.”
But one family member remained inside the burning house. Boogie, a 9-year-old, FEMA-certified search-and-rescue dog who worked for the LAFD with Jason, was in her kennel on the first floor.
Because of the intense heat and flames, firefighters had difficulty entering the house when they first arrived.
“Once inside, firefighters aggressively fought the fire and had it knocked down quickly, while crews simultaneously attempted to locate and rescue a dog that was trapped inside,” according to a City of Rancho Cucamonga news release.
Unfortunately, Boogie did not survive the fire. Firefighters respectfully covered the black Lab’s body with a U.S. flag and saluted her as she was removed from the house.
“Any loss in the Los Angeles Fire Department family weighs heavy on the hearts of all members,” the LAFD stated in a news release.
Boogie, whose full name was Sundown’s Boot Scootin’ Boogie, was as lively as her name implied, the LAFD said. She and Chapman had worked together for more than seven years. In 2008, they were dispatched to Texas, where they helped rescue people after Hurricane Gustav. In Los Angeles, among the many cases Boogie worked on were an apartment building collapse and a kidnapping.
“As one of the most experienced K9s on the team, she also served as a ‘trainer,’” the LAFD said. “New handlers worked with Boogie to develop critical skills before obtaining their own K9. Boogie was always ready for any chance to get out on the rubble pile.”
While Jason is mourning the loss of his beloved partner, he knows it could have been much worse if not for teenage hero Hawker.
“We do it for a living. We’re trained to do it as firemen, so it’s expected of us,” Jason told KABC.
“It’s not expected of a 17-year-old.”
Photos via LAFD.org