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Give Back to Unhoused Man who Saved Puppy's Life

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My name is Emilie Brill and I am raising funds to help the unhoused man who was instrumental in saving my dog's life after he was swept away from me in a flood in Southern California. Funds will go towards formal housing assistance for this unsung hero who is going through some hard times.

On Monday, January 16, 2023, my beloved 1-year old puppy Seamus was swept away by floodwaters from the recent historic storms, and nearly lost his life. He is home safe with us thanks to the dedication of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, and to the quick thinking of an unhoused man named Darrell Smith who lives and works near the storm drain that Seamus was swept into.

Here is what happened:

After Seamus was carried off by the raging water, I ran as fast as I could along the bank after him, but he was swept out of sight and I frantically called 911. Two fire engines were dispatched and began searching the area, while my husband and I also continued our desperate search along the river channel.

Meanwhile, Darrell, who is currently camped under a bridge about a mile downstream from where Seamus entered the water, was at work when he heard barking and ran to the river bank to see Seamus being carried down the river while barking in terror. “I saw enough of the dog to see that he was in the river moving downstream,” Darrell later told firefighters. “I started running, lost visual and then heard barking" coming out of a storm drain access tube adjacent to the river. He ran to the manhole cover and saw Seamus at the bottom of the tube, about 10 feet below grade, on a pile of debris.

Darrell's clear-headed instincts and quick actions made all the difference for Seamus at this point. The water in the river was still rising, and time was of the essence. He called a coworker over to stay with Seamus to keep him still and calm, while he ran to the main office of the nearby RV facility where he works and had his employer place a 911 call. Then he ran out to the road and flagged down a passing fire engine, which was already in the area due to my earlier 911 call. The fire crew was able to climb down the manhole and carry Seamus out to safety. Thanks to the team effort between Darrell and our outstanding first responders, this miraculous rescue was complete less than an hour after the ordeal began.

The firefighters dried Seamus off, warmed him up, and transported him home in their engine.

Thanks to the Apple AirTag Seamus was wearing, which updated his location when one of the firefighters' iPhones came within range at the site of the rescue, my husband and I had the location saved and were able to find and talk to Darrell ourselves. When I met him, he greeted me with a warm hug and told me he believes pets are family. He didn't ask for a thing in return for his heroism, but when I asked him how we could thank him, he said he and his companions were cold and hungry. We returned later with food, blankets, warm clothes, fresh socks, etc., but we would like to do more for this wonderful man who helped save our precious pup's life. His work at the RV facility near where Seamus was rescued isn't enough to make ends meet, and the area under the bridge where he is camped gets flooded out regularly.

How the Funds Will Help:

I have reached out to Step Up San Bernardino, a highly-regarded organization with extensive experience working to help unhoused people get into permanent supportive housing in our area. My goal is for the proceeds of this fundraiser to be used to establish a fund at Step Up, so that he can enter their program and work with them to get into a more stable housing situation as well as receive other services he may need. Any additional funds raised beyond those needed by Darrell will be used for others in need of housing assistance.

Photos, Videos, News Stories:

More details of the story can be found at the Washington Post, this segment from Good Morning America, and in the original press release and video from the San Bernardino County Fire Department.



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Emilie Brill
Loma Linda, CA

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