BONIFAY - Bonifay Firefighter and EMT Kirk McKee says when it comes to saving lives, he and his fellow emergency responders don't just stop with saving people.
"We're here for all life," said McKee. "When we respond to a fire, we want to be sure everyone makes it out safely. That's what we train for."
McKee was among those responding Jan. 19 when Bonifay Fire-Rescue was dispatched to a fire at a Park Circle residence in Bonifay - a residence that was home to a local couple and their blind Yorkie.
The couple was not home as firefighters began to deploy an attack line through the front door of the single-wide mobile home for an interior attack on the flames.
"The Bonifay Police Department was on scene when we got there, and an officer alerted us that a dog may be inside because he saw food and water bowls," said McKee.
While performing a primary search of the home, McKee located the small-breed dog in the back bedroom with heavy smoke conditions.
"I was searching to see if there was anyone in there and made my way around the house," he said. "The smoke was thick and banked down, so I barely saw [the dog] out of the corner of my eye. I felt him as I was crawling around and was able to grab him and get him out of the home."
The fire was extinguished and contained to the kitchen and one bedroom with heat and smoke damage noted to the remainder of the structure.
Meanwhile, the homeowners had arrived on scene and were able to witness their dog's rescue before McKee handed the dog over to waiting Holmes County EMS personnel. Paramedic Ashley Pettis then administered high-flow oxygen in the staged firefighter rehab area and wrapped the dog in a blanket.
McKee says he will never forget being able to return the dog to its owners.
"It was an amazing feeling," he said. "The husband and wife were in absolute tears when they saw I was holding the dog, but truly, it was teamwork. I am thankful for the neighbors who called in the fire, as well as the Bonifay Public Works Department and Bonifay Police Department for their role in the response."
Bonifay Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief/Paramedic Travis Cook reports the call to Holmes County E-911 dispatchers came from a resident who advised a fire had spread to the back porch of the neighboring residence while he was burning leaves.
Cook is urging residents to use caution when burning yard debris.
"As warmer weather approaches and homeowners begin to tackle yard work and fallen leaves this time of year, Bonifay Fire-Rescue's call volume tends to increase," said Cook. "Bonifay Fire-Rescue has answered 20 calls in the last 22 days with 9 of those being woods/brush fires and 2 of those spreading to structures. We would like to remind everyone to know your area's laws and ordinances regarding open burning and never leave an open fire unattended."