WASHINGTON-- On January 27th, as fire tore through a town home in Mount Vernon, firefighter Jeff Maisel desperately tried to save his five dogs and became trapped.
"He was trying to protect his livelihood, basically his kids, so he took them upstairs thinking it was the right thing to do," said Lieutenant Rick Trudeau, the Fairfax County firefighter who rescued Maisel and the five dogs.
Maisel is in intensive care at Medstar Washington -- one of the dogs didn't make it -- four others are recovering from burns in an animal hospital in Fairfax County, and the vet bills are stacking up.
Clifford Ward is Jeff Maisel's partner and was able to escape the fire. He says the bills for the dogs have surpassed $15, 000 and continue to grow.
"What am I going to do, last night I gave them [the vet] a check for $1,000 dollars and that is really all I had left in the bank," Ward said.
As Ward spends his time between being at his partner's side and visiting the dogs, help is on the way, from the man who helped save their lives.
Trudeau is the proud owner of Berneses Mountain Dogs, and once he realized that three of the dogs he saved were of the same breed, he felt a connection.
Trudeau, wanting to do more, went back to the scene of the fire and found Ward searching the rubble for his wallet. After he learned about the mounting vet bills he made a promise to Ward.
"So you can concentrate on your partner who is in the hospital, who is still in intensive care...I am gonna take care of this, I am gonna start a fund I don't know what with or how," Trudeau told him.
With the help of his wife, Tredeau was able to setup a website and the money poured in. So far over $12,000 dollars has been raised for the dogs.
"These dogs are like their children," Trudeau said.
Ward says he's thankful for all that Trudeau has done and continues to do. "He risked his life for our dogs, not many people would do that," Ward said.
Trudeau also found foster homes for the dogs when they are released from the hospital so Ward can continue to remain beside his partner as he recovers.
"Until it hit close to home, like this, with the Bernese Mountain dog situation, I never realized... the stuff people go through after a fire," Trudeau said.
For more information or to make a donation, go to the Bernese Mountain Dog House Fire Relief Fund.
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