Watch CBS News

Family Thanks First Responders Who Saved Pets From New Year's Blaze

FLEMINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- About 500,000 pets die in burning homes every year. There's a family in New Jersey who's three pets survived, and on Friday they got a chance to thank their heroes.

As CBS2's Cindy Hsu reported, the New Year's Eve house fire caused about a million dollars in damage, but it could have been worse -- there were three pets trapped inside.

The owners weren't home, but the smoke set off their ADT alarm system, and a dispatcher contacted the family.

John Suchorsky was about a mile away at the hospital taking care of his father.

"I ignored this 1-800 call because I thought it was telemarketers. The next call was from my daughter saying, 'ADT just called me," he said.

Suchorsky was able to tell firefighters they had a dog and two cats inside the house -- they found two of them under the Christmas tree.

"They found the dog and the cat huddled together almost like protecting each other. They weren't going anywhere without each other," Deputy Chief Keith Paradiso, Raritan Township Fire Company, said.

Firefighters brought Romeo the cat out first -- he was burned and suffering from smoke inhalation. -- EMTs used a special oxygen mask for pets.

"It took three of us to kind of hold it still and hold the mask on and get the oxygen flowing," Betsy, a volunteer EMT said.

Then came Riley. EMTs said it was heart-wrenching.

"When the dog came out one of the firefighters brought the dog out and the dog was limp and not responding," Kathy Miller, Raritan First Aid and Rescue said.

The second cat Chloe was rescued in the basement. All three pets spent days in the hospital and are doing fine. The cats stayed home for the big reunion, but Riley was front and center as ADT and the Suchorskys presented the all-volunteer first responders with $7,500.

"Our gratitude to the first responders is just too immense for words. It's incredible," John said.

The house is still a mess, and it will likely be a year-and-a-half before the Suchorskys can move back in, but they said what's really important survived the fire.

Riley has just been certified as a therapy dog and will start working with children next month.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.