A letter written by Chris Carney after his dogs were saved from a house fire
Hello, my name is Chris Carney. I live in Gainesville, Florida and have been rescuing dogs for 13 years. I’m here to talk about the difference Project Breathe made.
When someone loses it all, and then on top of that is told that their best friend, their family member, their dog, is dead, it breaks their spirit at the worst time imaginable. Losing one was horribly painful. Losing seven in one night would have broken me.
On March 23rd, I woke at 2am to the sounds of screaming and explosions. The carport was on fire and spray paint cans were exploding. I thought I had about five minutes to get everyone out, including eight dogs. It turned out to be about 90 seconds. By that time I had only managed to get one dog out. The fire quickly burned into the house through the ceiling and within seconds the house went from sort of smoky to filled with fire, pitch black smoke and carbon monoxide.
A few things about fire….. Fire is so terrible it doesn’t even need to touch you to kill you. Almost instantly the whole house turns into a gas chamber. You only get 7 to 10 breaths before you lose consciousness. People run from fires, but dogs hide and are quickly asphyxiated. This combination of factors is why pet deaths are so common in house fires. I made it out the back door and ran back inside to get the others. You can see the fire running across the ceiling but other than that you can’t see the hand in front of your face. I was breathing carbon monoxide but didn’t know it. I made it to the living room where a powerful shock wave, I think from the collapsing carport, knocked me down. I hit the ground and found there was less smoke there. I crawled to Marty’s crate and unlocked it, thinking he would follow me. He was already asphyxiated but I didn’t know. He was only inches away but I couldn’t see him. I began to black out from lack of oxygen and ran back outside while I could. Marty wasn’t behind me. None of them were.
After that I knew I’d be killed if I went back inside. It’s a horrible decision to make, not going back inside, knowing they are dying. I screamed for them. None came. The fire was now close to the back door so I fled to the fence. Then the propane tank exploded. The explosion was from a one pound propane tank, the small green kind. The fireball was thirty feet high and charred the ground for twenty feet in every direction. I grill a lot and usually keep four 20 pound propane tanks on the porch. For the first time in many years they were all empty, otherwise I would not be here. And then help arrived.
Gainesville Fire Rescue went above and beyond their call of duty. There were no people left in the house and they didn’t have to go inside. But they chose to anyway and risked their lives for the dogs. They pulled all seven remaining dogs out of the house and with the help of your oxygen masks, worked furiously as a team to revive them all in simultaneous, side by side resuscitations. What these firefighters did, how hard they worked together as a team, was truly amazing. And they managed to get six of the seven back. Julie, Marty, Angel, Angie, Sam and Cici got their lives back. Mogley didn’t make it.
These dog’s lives mean so much. When I see the life in their eyes, I know their gift of life is from you.
The truck was severely damaged. The house and everything in it was completely destroyed. But none of that means anything compared to the dogs. When someone loses it all, and then on top of that is told that their best friend, their family member, their dog, is dead, it breaks their spirit at the worst time imaginable. Losing one was horribly painful. Losing seven in one night would have broken me.
These dogs had already been through Hell. Their lives had been so hard, then they narrowly escaped death at animal control. In our home they had finally found a safe place and then this happened. And that would have been the end for them if it hadn’t been for these oxygen masks. I try to save dogs, but that night Project Breathe™ and Gainesville Fire Rescue saved mine. People ask me how I’ve been able to cope with so much loss and the great difficulty that followed. I tell them it’s not so bad, I have my dogs.
Nothing, nothing at all is more important than life. There is no finer act than to save the lives of innocent creatures struggling to survive during their darkest hour. And Don Taylor was there for us and made sure Gainesville Fire Rescue had the tools they needed to save lives. Donald, the gift of life you gave through your foresight, generosity and compassion was the kindest thing anyone has ever done for any of us. There are no words that can begin to convey what a great program Project Breathe™ is, and the precious gift of life you gave us. These dog’s lives mean so much. When I see the life in their eyes, I know their gift of life is from you. THANK YOU!