When Rob Lee was 6 years old, a fire broke out in his family’s Fresno, Calif., house on the day before the Fourth of July. All of his family members were able to get out safely, including Lee’s dog, Mackie, who was carried out by a firefighter before the house collapsed in flames.
Inspired by that hero who saved Mackie’s life, Lee became a firefighter. He worked with several other fire departments before getting his dream job with the Fresno Fire Department.
Fast-forward to exactly 21 years after that house fire. On July 3, Lee was one of the firefighters who responded to a Fresno house fire that was probably ignited by fireworks that had set a nearby tree ablaze. Inside the house was a 10-year-old English Bulldog named Samson.
“There was a firefighter already inside tending to a dog and they were trying to get the dog out,” Lee told KFSN. “The dog had already bit that firefighter, so they were trying to get the dog out of the structure safely.”
With his helmet cam recording the rescue on video, Lee entered the burning house and saved Samson’s life.
“Houses can be rebuilt but dogs can’t be replaced,” Lee told KFSN.
Samson was treated for smoke inhalation, according to his owner, James Verdugo, who’s a veteran and suffers from PTSD. “He’s all I cared about,” Verdugo told KMPH. He wasn’t home at the time of the fire, but his roommates were, and were able to escape to safety.
After Verdugo got a call that his house was on fire and was driving home, he got another call that Samson had been rescued. “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more overjoyed in the middle of so much tragedy,” he told KMPH. “It’s like everything was okay, even though my house was gone.”
Working with the Fresno Fire Department is “an absolute honor,” Lee told KFSN. “I can’t believe that I get to do this job.”
An online fundraiser to cover the cost of Samson’s $6,000 veterinarian bill has already raised over $5,000. You can make a contribution here.
Updated July 9, 2020