Off-duty cops, retired firefighter rescue residents, dog from burning Union City home

UNION CITY — Two off-duty police officers and one retired fire captain jumped into action Friday evening to rouse two sleeping residents and rescue one frightened dog from a raging fire at a Union City home.

Retired Alameda County Fire Department Captain Bruce Armstrong was at his home not far from the 3000 block of Keith Avenue when, around 9:30 p.m., he smelled smoke coming from outside his window, said department spokeswoman Aisha Knowles. He rushed outside and saw smoke rising from a nearby house, Knowles said.

Running to the residence, Armstrong saw heavy fire spewing out of the garage, she said. There were people milling about the street, but no one seemed to know whether the resident’s two occupants had made it out.

As soon as Armstrong arrived, he was joined outside the house by off-duty San Leandro Police Department Officer J. Kalsbeek and another off-duty officer, who wished to remain anonymous. They all happened to be neighbors, Knowles said.

“They started banging on all the windows and yelling,” she said, “but the two occupants of the home were sleeping.”

Kalsbeek, who had rushed out of his home without any shoes, grabbed a flower pot and threw it through the window. That seemed to do the trick, Knowles said. The residents woke up and started to make their way out, but the officers and Armstrong continued to search the house.

Retired Alameda County Fire Department Capt. Bruce Armstrong rescued aone-year-old dog, named Samie, from a burning Union City home, Friday, June29, 2019. (Photo courtesy Alameda County Fire Department)—*Erin Baldassari* transportation reporter | Editorialebaldassari@bayareanewsgroup.com510-208-6428*Over 5 million engaged readers weekly*

The residents had mentioned a dog, little one-year-old Samie. Armstrong found the pup cowering under a bed, she said.

“In those situations, you know, it’s very hectic and loud,” Knowles said of the scared dog. “But Bruce was able to get her out.”

Fire crews arrived to douse the flames, which were extinguished in less than 30 minutes, Knowles said. The fire burned a detached garage and spread into an adjacent home. Three residents and one dog in that home were able to make it out of their house before fire crews arrived, she said.

Neither family was able to return that night, but Knowles said both have family in the area and were able to stay with them.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, she said, and no injuries were reported.

The two officers and retired fire captain all acted quickly, Knowles said.

“They literally ran from their homes to try to make sure everyone was out,” she said. “They instinctively acted to save the lives of their neighbors.”