A 14-year old Phoenix boy gave his dog an early and unforgettable holiday gift.
Young Mike Assi was on a school bus about 7:40 a.m. on Friday, when he spotted smoke billowing from his family home. He asked the driver to stop, bolted from the bus, and futilely tried to open the home’s front door. When it wouldn’t budge, he ran to the back of the house and opened the back door, freeing his 9-year old pit bull, Zach, reports Fox-10 Phoenix.
“I go through the backyard, I open the back door and I start yelling for him,” Assi told Fox-10. “He comes out through the backyard. He sat in the backyard … he wouldn’t move. We were too close to the house. I had to pick him up to bring him out through the front yard.”
Phoenix Fire Department Capt. Reda Bigler said that firefighters had not yet arrived on the scene when Assi rescued Zach. Although she praised the boy’s heroism, she cautioned that people should stay far away from burning structures.
“It’s not even that fire hurts people, it’s that the smoke can render someone unconscious very quickly,” said Bigler. “But [Mike] was smart. He didn’t run in, even when the door opened.”
Bigler said the cause of the fire and damage estimates were not yet available, yet news footage showed the home was badly burned. Bigler said the family was displaced, but that no one was injured and that the fire didn’t spread to other structures.
“Fire crews controlled the fire and kept it from burning out of control,” said Bigler. “You could see smoke from miles and miles away.”
Assi told Fox News that he wasn’t deterred by the intensity of the fire.
“I sleep with him, he’s my sister’s, but I grew up with him,” said Mike Assi. “… he’s family.”
Family members contacted by PEOPLE declined comment.