DRAPER, Utah – The Draper City Fire Department tragically lost a crew member in the Mendocino complex fire in California, but they also gained a new one with four legs.
Draper City Firefighter Patrick Cullen had been battling the Mendocino Complex Fire for about four days when he felt something move in the middle of the night, according to KSTU.
“I thought, 'oh, me and a mountain lion. This will be fun,'” said Cullen. However, that mountain lion ended up being a German Shepherd.
“There was a mud puddle there that he was pawing at for water, so I gave him some water, a couple bottles of water, and he slept under the engine for the next few hours,” said Cullen.
Right away, Cullen and the other firefighters started brainstorming names.
“A couple of us had mentioned Mendo, and it stuck,” said Cullen.
As much as they loved having the dog around, it wasn't safe to keep Mendo with them while they were on the fire lines.
The Mendocino Animal Shelter tried to find his owner and when nobody came forward, they contacted Cullen.
“A couple of the volunteers from the county offered to meet in Reno,” said Cullen.
Chandra Brouilette was one of those volunteers and she shot their reunion on her phone.
“It was so heartwarming, and Mendo recognized Patrick right away, and there was no doubt that this was truly, truly meant to be,” said Brouilette.
“Especially with things that happened as we finished what we were doing there, he had a little bit more value,” said Cullen.
Cullen is tearfully referring to the loss of battalion chief Matt Burchett, who did meet Mendo before he passed.
“I know he saw him and I know we talked about it,” said Cullen.
The Draper City Fire Department never expected to come home one crew member short, but by gaining one more, their experience in California can be associated with a new beginning.
“This is a happy ending to that story,” said Cullen.
Mendo is not the official firehouse dog for the Draper City Fire Department, but Cullen says he plans to bring him around a lot, hoping he'll bring some comfort to his fellow firefighters.