WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Kelly Jernigan is not only a captain with the Winston-Salem Fire Department, but also an animal lover.
“I just lost one yesterday,” she told WGHP.
About three years ago, Jernigan took in two Dobermans that were rescues. One was named Zion.
“When they got out in the yard, the one that just died, it’s almost like he had never seen grass before,” Jernigan said.
On Tuesday, Zion, who they estimated at about 11 years old, had to be put down due to cancer.
“Being down all day yesterday and all day today,” Jernigan described.
But, when Jernigan and other firefighters got called out to Conley Street for an apartment fire, she had to put the memories of Zion in the back of her mind.
“Of course, the first thing we do is start looking for victims,” she said.
While they were clearing apartments, she and her colleagues heard barking inside one of them, coming from a dog named Cinnamon. The firefighters were able to calm Cinnamon down and Jernigan wrapped her in her arms.
“Just getting her, you can tell she’s very skittish and I would be too. You know, somebody coming up looking like this with helmets and gloves,” Jernigan said.
WGHP captured the moment Jernigan carried Cinnamon to safety.
“It’s kind of good timing for me,” Jernigan said. “It kind of helps me heal.”
Cinnamon’s owner, Ann Love, was at work when the fire started. As Love drove back home, Cinnamon was given water and shelter inside a fire vehicle - she even accidentally set off some of the sirens.
When Love arrived, Jernigan already had Cinnamon on a makeshift leash. Cinnamon jumped into Love’s arms as she broke into tears.
“To know that she was OK, it made my day,” Love said, through her tears. “I love her.”
Less than 24 hours after Zion’s death, Jernigan had found the comfort she needed in the companionship of a dog she’d never met before.
“Once I got my hands on this one, it’s like all is right with the world,” she said.
Three people were displaced in the fire, which started in a utility building and spread to the apartment building. No one was injured, and as of Wednesday evening, investigators were still trying to figure out how the fire started.