California-based photographer Billy Fernando was driving to the beach on Tuesday, March 21 when he passed by an apartment building that was on fire in Santa Monica.
Fernando stopped to watch what he thought was a routine, contained incident, until he saw something truly awe-inspiring unfold.
He witnessed Santa Monica firefighter Andrew Klein cradling a small animal who had been rescued from the building, urging him, “Come on, bud, come on!”
“That was when I realized that it was a dog: limp and unconscious, he wasn’t moving at all,” Fernando says.
According to local affiliate ABC7, the 10-year-old Bichon Frise/Shih Tzu mix, named Nalu, was rescued from the burning apartment building after Klein found him unresponsive in his apartment.
Nalu’s owner, Crystal Lamirande, who was not home at the time of the fire and tragically could not get to her dog in time, watched as the whole scene unfolded with Klein outside.
Fernando, who went into photographer mode, says he watched in awe has Klein went to work to save Nalu, giving the small dog an oxygen mask and then quickly moving to CPR. “He didn’t waste any time … no hesitation.”
It was not an easy moment to capture.
“I felt really sad and emphatic seeing the owner of the dog trying to call on the dog, ‘You’re not out of the woods yet, Nalu! Come on, baby!'” Fernando says.
After 15 minutes of CPR, Fernando worried that Nalu might not pull through. But, as Fernando says, “[Klein would] not give up.”
“He kept on massaging the dog, calling his name, giving him a CPR,” he says. “After 20 excruciating minutes, the dog started breathing heavily and gasping.”
Fernando says that he and Lamirande were, “overwhelmed with joy and tears.”
“This whole experience was very profound,” he says. “I shoot weddings, as well, so I know the moments that are very important, and when I am able to look back at very emotional moment like this, that’s when I always renew my sense of compassion and empathy.”
In an interview with ABC7, Klein said, “Our goal is to save people, and sometimes we’re not able to do that despite our best efforts. But to have a success story just like this, even with Nalu being a dog … he’s a life and he’s a life that matters.”
After capturing Nalu’s life-saving resuscitation on camera, Fernando tracked down Klein on Instagram so he could share the photos with him. “I mentioned how glad I am, and sent him the photos I took of him doing the greatest that humanity can do. He’s a cool guy!”
That feeling of respect and admiration for Klein has been felt by many, as well-wishers took to the Santa Monica Fire Department Facebook page to thank him for his outstanding work.
One of those people was none other than Nalu’s mama, who shared a picture of the recovering dog and wrote, “Back from the dead !!!! He is so thankful he is alive. Thank you thank you thank you … we are forever grateful.”
Images courtesy of Billy Fernando
Aly Semigran is a lifestyle writer for the world, and roommate of Ruby, the cutest dog in the world.