By Matt Schooley
The Vermont firefighters who doused a massive fire early Monday morning were heroic in their actions. But there was also another hero. This one has four legs and a tail.
The Freeman family of Chelmsford had just arrived at its condo at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vt., heading to bed to rest up for a week of skiing. At about 1:30 a.m., Dave Freeman said he was woken up by Bernese mountain dog, Oakley, sitting on his head.
Woken up by the dog, Freeman noticed the smell of smoke coming from somewhere beneath his apartment. As it turned out, a fire started somewhere between the first floor and his third floor condo. Thanks to Oakley’s actions, Freeman woke his father and son up, and began banging on doors in the building to alert others to the fire.
“The four-legged friend is a true hero, definitely,” said Freeman. “We went around waking up people who were sound asleep. We were kicking on doors, and people probably would’ve perished if not for us and the dog.”
Freeman said that about 15 to 20 minutes after they woke up, firefighters showed up and the smoke filling the building turned into flames. The fire ravished the condo, destroying the 36-unit building and causing several million dollars in damages.
“The firefighters tried like heck,” said Freeman. “But they just couldn’t keep up with it.”
According to Freeman, the family has been going to its Sugarbush condo each winter since 2000. Freeman said he is still working with his insurance company to determine what will be covered, but added that it is a slow process.
Though Freeman was sad to see his condo destroyed, but said that wasn’t the most important thing.
“It’s been a fun place to go for many years,” said Freeman. “We’re disappointed it’s gone, but so thankful no one was hurt.”
Freeman and others have Oakley to thank for that, and the day after the fire, the canine was rewarded for his efforts.
Sugarbush opened its four star restaurant for victims of the fire to eat at no cost. And among the restaurant’s guests was Oakley, the hero of the night.
“The morning after the fire, I took her down for an egg and bacon omelette,” Freeman said with a laugh. “We walked right in there, no questions asked. No problems.”
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story had the breed of the dog misspelled. We regret the error.