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Bravest saves pets from Pel Bay blaze

James Minaugh stepped off the Bx14 bus and into a nightmare. On Wednesday, July 8, the 3505 Bruckner Boulevard resident returned home from physical therapy to a kitchen fire. Minaugh sprinted to rescue his beloved dog and cat.

“I opened the door,” the 54-year old said. “I yelled ‘Buddy! Buddy!’ The dog usually meets me at the door. I was crawling. I couldn’t breath anymore.”

Engine 89 firefighters reached the five-story Pelham Bay apartment building and told Minaugh to stand outside. When the firefighters emerged, there were no pets to be seen.

“I was hysterical,” Minaugh said. “Then this one guy, a firefighter, comes out looking at me. He says, ‘I hear you have a dog in there. What’s its name?’ I tell him, ‘Buddy.’ He sys, ‘I’ll be right out,’ and he runs in.”

The firefighter found Buddy on a bed, under the sheets. The Shiloh Shepherd had just enough smoke-free air to breath. The firefighter carried him outside.

“He saw the pillows on the bed and saw a big lump under the covers,” Minaugh said. “It was Buddy.”

The firefighter gave the dog oxygen. Another firefighter, Bob Bentkowski, found the cat hiding in a closet.

“The cat was frightened,” Minaugh said. “It clawed the hell out of me. Everybody started clapping. The dog sat there like ‘what just happened?’”

No one was home at 4:15 p.m. when the first floor apartment burst into flame. Minaugh was at therapy for a busted knee. His wife was at the store and his daughter was at work. Firefighters from Ladder 50 secured the apartment while firefighters from Engine 89 doused the blaze; 60 firefighters responded to the fire. It subsided at 4:34 p.m., a FDNY spokesman said.

The firefighters broke windows in the hall of the building, a walk-up erected in 1950. They told third-floor resident Anna Jasinski to close her door and stay inside.

“We heard the firemen outside,” Jasinski said. “[Minaugh] was so upset.”

The fire started in the kitchen and wasn’t electrical in nature, super George Jevtovic said. No other apartments were damaged. Minaugh is living in his apartment, although his kitchen is kaput. His wife and daughter are staying elsewhere.

“We replaced the windows but the apartment needs to be redone,” Jevtovic said.

Landlord Weiss Realty of E. Tremont Avenue is working on a vacant apartment in the building and will turn it over to Minaugh temporarily. Cleaning chemicals under the kitchen sink caused the fire, according to a fire marshal, a Weiss Realty employee said.

Buddy is with family in New Jersey. Minaugh is a plasterer at Jacobi Hospital.

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