Che hailed as hero dog for Port Richmond fire alert, protecting owner

Che is recovering from smoke inhalation after the fire Sunday in a Port Richmond rowhouse.

A dog named Che is being hailed as a hero for alerting his neighbors that a fire had broken out around 4:30 a.m. Sunday in the two-story red brick Port Richmond rowhouse he shares with his owner.

Thanks to Che's uncharacteristic barking, the neighbors spotted the fire and called the Fire Department, whose firefighters quickly doused the blaze in the 3100 block of Memphis Street.

They discovered Che lying on top of his female owner. Both were unconscious and were revived with oxygen, according to Jen Leary, founder of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team, a nonprofit animal rescue group.

Che's owner, whom authorities have not identified, was taken to Temple University Hospital for treatment of burns.

Workers clearing the fire damage Sunday afternoon said the owner is Andrea F. Bulat.

The homeowner is in critical condition and the cause of the fire has not been determined, said Capt. William Dixon, the Fire Department's public information officer. A Fire Department spokesman said a second woman in the house was also injured, but no details were available.

Che, described by Leary as 80-pounds and tan, a possible mix of chow and Labrador retriever breeds, is being treated at CARES animal hospital in Langhorne.

"The neighbors said they were woken up by Che barking and barking and barking, which is really unusual because he doesn't usually bark," said Leary, a former city firefighter who founded Red Paw five years ago.

Che was soaking wet and in shock after being taken out of the house, said Leary, who added that his condition after she took him to CARES was listed as guarded and stable.

Although Che was able to save his owner, a pet cat died in the fire, Leary said.

"It's pretty amazing," she said of Che. "And the fact that he stayed and tried to comfort his owner shows how important a family member dogs are."