Neighbors alert tenants, save dog from burning apartment

by: Gary Horcher Updated:

SNOHOMISH, Wash. - When Ali Thomas saw the column of smoke, and realized a three-alarm fire was devouring her apartment, she could only think of her 13-year-old beagle, Comet, that she left in her apartment when she went to work.

“I was in a panic,” Thomas said. “I was ready to run into the flames myself to get him. I grew up with him. He’s my baby,” she said.

Minutes later, Thomas spotted Comet on a leash, straining to get to her. The leash was in the hands of a firefighter.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.  What  Thomas didn’t know was a neighbor she’d never met pulled Comet out of her burning apartment.  “I’d just love to hug that person and say thank you,” Thomas said.

The man who rescued Comet saw the fire begin from across the street with an explosion.

“It was like war, just a huge boom,” said Shawn Riley, who reacted by sprinting into the burning three-story apartment building, before he put his shoes on. “I just wanted to get people out,” he said. “Get people out first!”

Riley ran from door to door, along with Jeb Mackenzie, in some cases kicking doors down. All 30 tenants had gotten out. But some of their prized pets and possessions were still inside.

“At one point, I looked through the smoke in the apartment in the end, and I saw a beagle just sitting there in the smoke,” Riley said. “I snatched up the dog, smoke was really bad, I had to get out.”  The apartment where Riley and Mackenzie rescued Comet was burned beyond recovery. Comet was safe, but his owner, Ali Thomas, lost everything else.

“The two most important things to me are my dog and my mom,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do without them. I’m just glad he’s OK.”

Investigators could not immediately find the point of the fire’s origin. The Snohomish County Fire Chief tells KIRO-7, it definitely began on a tenant’s upper deck.

“We’ve ruled the grill out,” he said.