Dog saves family as fire spreads to their home

Andrew Srouji, 11, gives Cara a well-deserved hug. Without her warnings, he and members of his family could have been hurt or killed in an early September fire that consumed his First Street Quincy home and two others. Photo by Leila Srouji

Not all heroes are human, said Alex Saez, Plumas County Animal Services officer.

That’s the case when a black Labrador named Cara alerted Salim Srouji that a fire was burning the family garage.

Salim was able to get his mother and four young children out of the house before it was consumed in flames. He didn’t even have time to run back to get their shoes, Leila Srouji said.

A fire of an undetermined origin started in the Sroujis’ garage and burned their home and two others Sept. 4 in East Quincy.

House fire

Sometime around midnight, Leila said her brother Salim fell asleep on the sofa. Also asleep in the home was their mother, Salim’s three children and Leila’s son.

Cara kept barking and hitting the window, Leila said her brother explained. At first he ignored the family’s pet until she made a noise that he’d never heard from her before.

Looking out the window he saw that the garage was fully engulfed in flames and it was burning rapidly toward the house.

Quickly waking their mother, Salim then rushed to the rooms where his nephew and his own three children were sound asleep.

Salim told his sister that he just had enough time to escape the house with everyone and Cara the dog.

Outside, Salim said he realized they didn’t have shoes on, but when he turned to enter the house to gather some, he discovered it was already fully engulfed in flames.

Leila was on a camping trip in Oregon. She wouldn’t receive text messages from her son Andrew and others until they reached a place where there was cell service somewhere along the trail.

“I think my house has really burned down,” Leila remembers telling her boyfriend. She insisted on cutting her much needed vacation short and rushed home.

Leila said that she and her brother went in together to purchase their big, two-story home on First Street.

Leila said they purchased the home when she accepted a job with Plumas County Public Health Services. They moved from Redding.

They had been living there about a year when it was destroyed by fire.

Although they were insured, prices for construction have gone up, so they won’t realize a full return on their insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding.

She said that local fire officials have investigated the source of the fire, her insurance company has investigated it and others have as well.

Leila confessed that it was a very charming home that was lost in the fire. She knows that she will never be able to duplicate it, but as she goes over construction designs she knows she wants something similar. And she plans to rebuild on the same lot.

As for housing for the family, she said they just found a rental that’s big enough to house everyone.

Cara has been living at animal services. Alex Saez said the family visits regularly to see their hero who is really a sweet dog.

Leila said they’ve taken her bedding and toys, and they are getting her favorite dog food.

They adopted Cara when she was 3 or 4 years old. That was a few years ago. And she’s been a perfect member of the family since she joined them.

Whether Cara knows she’s a hero or not is undetermined, but the family knows that without her warnings their disaster could have been much worse.

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