East Pierce fire chief saves dog from burning car

East Pierce Fire Chief Bud Backer

Forget firefighters rescuing stranded cats in trees.

East Pierce Fire Chief Bud Backer was washing his car outside the Bonney Lake Wal-Mart when dispatch alerted firefighters there was a car fire in the store parking lot.

Backer saw the car with light smoke coming out of the passenger compartment with a smoldering fire on the center console, between the driver and passenger seats.

By the time he got back to the car with his chemical fire extinguisher (he couldn’t break a window and risk feeding the fire more oxygen, Backer said), the flames were two feet high. Luckily, windows were already rolled down far enough to get the hose into the car and smothered the fire.

Engine 112 arrived on the scene, and as they were setting up the hose, the car’s owner came out of the store and told Backer her dog was still in the car.

Firefighters masked up and entered the car easily with the help of the woman’s car keys. At first they couldn’t see the dog, but as firefighters opened more doors, the dog jumped up from the back of the vehicle and tried to scramble through the opening between the seats and the door.

Once Backer lowered the seat, the dog jumped out and ran straight for its owner, now accompanied by her daughter.

“We thought that the dog would have been killed in the smoke,” Backer said. “But it was smart enough to get to the back of the car, and it must have hunkered down low.”

The dog appeared uninjured, although it was covered in the dry chemical spray from the fire extinguisher. To be safe, Backer recommended the woman take the dog to be checked for lung irritation from smoke or the dry chemical spray.

Backer was able to put out the fire two minutes before Engine 112 arrived.

“Had the fire grown any bigger, the story would mist likely have had an unfortunate ending,” he said. “It’s pretty heartwarming to hear a little girl say, ‘Thank you for saving my doggy.’”