Santa Monica fire fighters revive Stella, a boxer, on Saturday using a specially designed mask made specifically for dogs. (Photo courtesy Santa Monica Fire Department)


Kate Cagle
Daily Press Staff Writer

A Santa Monica family came home to a real house of horrors on Halloween when they returned from trick-or-treating to find their apartment on Montana Avenue going up in flames.

As the parents approached the smoking building, Captain Jason Walker was carrying their Australian shepherd to safety,
“They had just walked up when I carried the dog outside,” Walker said.

“They at first thought the dog was dead.”

Fortunately, thanks to a few crucial pieces of equipment – the family’s dog was alive and on a short path to recovery.

Firefighters had arrived on the scene around 9:20 p.m. – just five minutes after the smoke alarms went off inside a unit at 2020 Montana Avenue on Tuesday. The flames were coming from a kitchen on the first floor.

“We made our initial attack into the rear of the unit,” Walker said.

“It was a pretty quick knock down once we got inside.”

While the fire was put out after just five minutes, black smoke and steam filled the unit long after the flames died out.

Unable to see whether anyone was inside, Walker pulled out a thermal imaging camera.

On the screen he could see the family dog panting underneath a desk inside the apartment.

If it weren’t for the camera, it would have been impossible to know the dog was even missing since the family wasn’t home when the fire broke out.

With the dog in his arms, Walker walked out of the apartment and straight over to Engineer Mike Kresl. With the help Americare paramedic Stephanie Zamora, the team began giving the dog oxygen right away with a pet oxygen mask. The dog had gone into shock.

“It’s a specialized mask that keeps a seal around the dog’s snout and comes in multiple sizes – we can put it on a cat as well,” Walker said. “It has a cone that goes on their snout and when they’re breathing they get 100 percent oxygen.”

All Santa Monica Fire Department engines carry the valuable piece of equipment. Back in March, firefighters saved a poodle by performing mouth-to-snout resuscitation and then using the oxygen mask.

The thankful family stayed with their pet until he recovered a few minutes later.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Walker said it appeared that something had been left on the stove. The 25 SMFD personnel who responded to the call were able to limit the damage to a single apartment unit.

No people were injured by the fire.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press