ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - One day after flames devoured a Mount Vernon townhouse, one of the men who helped put out the blaze is once again coming to the rescue.
"As you can see I'm a Bernese Mountain Dog owner and a firefighter in the county," said Lieutenant Rick Trudeau while curled up on his couch with his three big dogs.
Trudeau has spent 16 years fighting fires with Fairfax County Fire & Rescue, but what happened Monday really hit the animal lover hard:
"I go just as hard trying to save a dog as I would a human being."
One Bernese mountain dog sadly perished in the fire at 8556 Towne Manor Court in Alexandria. Three others and a Corgi were critically injured. Trudeau drove by the shelled-out home hours later and came across the homeowner searching for his wallet.
"I asked if there's anything I can do and he said, 'you know when I get outwhen the dogs get out of the vet, there's no place for them to stay and the vet bills are climbing,'" recalled Trudeau. "Soon as he said that, it struck me that I can probably help with this."
So the firefighter created a fundly.com donation page -- and the dollars started pouring in.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "The outpouring of assistance has been overwhelming."
Dr. Colleen Mullally of the Regional Veterinary Referral Center in Springfield is also moved by the extreme show of kindness from strangers.
"I started tearing up and my heart just kind of melted that people are so giving, especially for pets," she said.
She saw the dogs as soon as they rushed in for critical care and is continuing to treat them. "It's really been kind of a roller coaster," she said.
Two of the dogs turned a corner quickly while two others are still struggling. Both of the dogs that remain hospitalized are battling pneumonia, and one dog is covered in burns.
The cost for their around-the-clock care and oxygen therapy can be summed up in one word, according to Mullally: "Astronomical."
She says the medical bills can easily reach $20,000. Mullally says the Trudeau's donation page is offering a glimmer of hope for a couple who nearly lost everything. She's grateful for the firefighter's generosity both on and off the job.
"They lost one of their dogs in the fire," she said of the victims. "They lost their house and knowing that they've got four dogs that are critically ill, it was heartbreaking I think for every member of our staff, myself included."
One of the homeowners is still hospitalized, but we're told doing better.
The fire remains under investigation.