‘Hero’ dogs die in fire
By Ramsey Harris
Two employees dragged their boss out of his smoky office right before flames engulfed the small white building that housed Larkin’s Used Cars in Madison last Thursday afternoon. By the time Rodney Solomon and Angel Swain carried their employer, Lark Bargo, to safety, it was too late for Swain to fetch her two dogs, who perished in the fire.
The Madison Fire Department responded to Swain’s 911 call at 4:31 p.m. last Thursday afternoon and arrived at the scene at 1331 Highway 278 East eight minutes later. By that time, the small structure was consumed in smoke, and flames leapt out of the southeastern side of the building.
The Morgan County Fire Department sent reinforcements to help control the fire. City Fire Marshall Gene Porter investigated the incident and ruled the fire an accident with an unknown ignition source. According to the fire department’s official report, the fire appeared to originate in Bargo’s front office on the southeastern side of the building, where excessive paper materials fueled the rapid spread of fire. Standing just outside the burning building, Solomon comforted Swain as she waited in hopes that firefighters might rescue her two dogs.
“We got Mr. Lark out just in time,” said Solomon. Bargo sat in the safety of a pickup truck, as he watched firefighters hose down his burning building. “I really don’t know what happened,” said Bargo, who sustained no injuries.
When a firefighter carried the body of one of Swain’s dogs out the front door, Humane Society volunteer Kathleen Miller immediately began trying to resuscitate the dog with CPR. By the time she gave up, the body of the second dog had also been recovered.
Swain recalled the incident by phone last Monday. She said that she and Solomon were outside of the building working in the yard when the fire started. When Swain returned to the building for a blower, she heard her dog Bo barking at the foot of Bargo’s closed office door.
“If he hadn’t been barking, I wouldn’t have seen the smoke. Had I not seen the smoke, I don’t think we could have gotten to Mr. Lark on time,” said Swain. “When Rodney pushed open the door, he hollered for Mr. Lark. We both went in the office and pulled him out by his feet,” said Swain.
According to Swain, her employer had only recently returned to work after a long stay in the hospital, where he was treated for several injuries he sustained in a car accident in Tennessee. Bargo has owned and operated the used car lot since 2001.
“I thank God we got in there in time to save Mr. Lark, because human life is worth more than anything,” said Swain. “But losing my dogs was like losing a part of me.” Although the dogs are gone, they won’t soon be forgotten. Even the Fire Department’s official report credits the smaller dog, Bo, for first detecting the fire. “When we fist took the call about the fire, we were told there were two occupants trapped,” said Porter. “We were looking for people.”