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Dog of fallen hero saved by fire crews

Union Leader Correspondent

October 16. 2013 8:47PM
Newport rescue workers administer oxygen to Hero the dog Tuesday night after a fire at the home of his owners, Skip and Rhonda Rollins. (COURTESY)

NEWPORT — A dog that belonged to a soldier killed in Iraq was rescued after fire broke out at the home of Skip and Rhonda Rollins.

“Knowing what we were going into there, it made it extremely difficult — we knew this dog had a lot of meaning to them because they lost their son in Iraq and it was just a great save,” Fire Chief Wayne Conroy said Wednesday.

Hero was a stray puppy Army Spc. Justin A. Rollins befriended just before he was killed at 22 by an improvised explosive device in 2007.

The dog’s story gained national attention after his parents asked military officials if they could keep the puppy.

Firefighters went to the Rollins home on Willow Road Tuesday around 6:30 p.m. for a reported basement fire. The Rollins were not at home.

Conroy, who knows the family well, said one of the first firefighters to arrive is a good friend of the Rollins. Knowing the couple had several pets, firefighters went into rescue mode, Conroy said.

A cat and a dog were found first. But firefighters knew Hero was still inside, so they kept searching, Conroy said.

“He was probably going to pass away of smoke inhalation if we hadn’t got to him,” the chief said of Hero.

Claremont Animal Hospital officials said Hero should make a full recovery.

The fire, which caused extensive smoke damage throughout the house, was under control by 7:30 p.m. The living room, kitchen and basement around the wood stove suffered fire damage.

Justin Rollins’ awards, medals and photographs were saved, as were most of the Rollins’ valuables, the chief said.

The family stayed at another son’s house Tuesday night, but the Red Cross has contacted the fire department and offered to find temporary housing for the Rollins.

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