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Firefighter Who Lost Home, Dog In Wildfire Gets New Start

By Kelly Werthmann

NEDERLAND, Colo. (CBS4)- It's been three months since the Cold Springs Fire tore through Nederland and destroyed eight homes. One of those houses belonged to a firefighter battling the flames, who also lost one of his family dogs in the fire.

"That's what made me sick to my stomach," Charlie Schmidtmann, a Nederland firefighter, told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann of his Saint Bernard, Geno, in July.

Charlie Schmidtmann
Charlie Schmidtmann with the Nederland Fire Department is interviewed by CBS4's Kelly Werthmann (credit: CBS)

Ever since, the Nederland community and others have stepped in to help Charlie and his wife Bretlyn, who also volunteers and works as a nurse. Recently one of the Schmidtmann's friends reached out to the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation for help. The organization raises money every year to help hockey families in need and Bretlyn plays hockey for a local adult team.

Saturday morning, the foundation organized a 5K Walk/Run at the Pepsi Center. Friends convinced Bretlyn to take part. She had no idea what was waiting for her at the finish line.

"Dawg Nation would like to give you and Charlie a $10,000 check," Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation President Martin Richardson said to Bretlyn.

As cheers and applause erupted from the crowd of runners and foundation members, Bretlyn shed a few tears and hugs. Little did she know there was another surprise up the foundation's hockey sleeves.

Bretlyn kisses "Watson" the Saint Bernard puppy (credit: CBS)

"We have one more thing for you," Richardson said, "and that's a Saint Bernard puppy."

Clearly surprised, Bretlyn was given the 9-week-old puppy from the Colorado Avalanche mascot, Bernie. With a huge grin and tears of joy, Bretlyn repeatedly expressed her gratitude.

"I'm completely overwhelmed," she told CBS4. "I don't even know what to say. I'm so grateful."

Charlie made it to the Pepsi Center not long after his wife was given the furry surprise. Seemingly unable to wipe the smile off his face, it was clear he and Bretlyn were overjoyed with their new addition named Watson.

"He's going to love this little guy," Bretlyn said with a smile of their other dog at home, who miraculously survived the Cold Springs Fire.

"Watson" the Saint Bernard puppy (credit: CBS)

"As awful as everything has been, we're really fortunate, too," she continued. "We still have each other, we still have [Watson's] big brother, and we've had so many friends and new friends come out and help us."

Wildfire Resources

- Visit's Living With Wildfire section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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