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April 19. 2012 11:37PM

Dog that alerted family dies in fire

HILLSBOROUGH — When Paul Sousa Jr., woke on Thursday morning, his beagle Dupa was on him, biting his hand and barking. At first he didn't know what the 5-year-old dog wanted, but then he quickly realized his house was on fire.

“I ran and woke up my dad,” said Sousa, standing amid the burned wreckage on Merrill Road. “The whole front of the house was on fire, so we went out the back.”

Sousa and his father, Paul Sousa Sr., were able to escape the flames that engulfed the home and spread to a nearby camper, igniting brush around the house.

But four of their five dogs — including Dupa — didn't survive.

“Dupa didn't make it out,” said Sousa, who has lived in town for 20 years and attended Hillsboro-Deering High School. “He was my best friend for years, and he's the one who saved my life. He was definitely a great dog.”

Firefighters battled the blaze, which started around 5 am, tackling first the building, and then going after the brush fire, said Sousa.

In the end, there was nothing left but twisted and charred metal, a little dog named Tippy who managed to get out, and a statue of the Virgin Mary standing unscathed in the rubble.

“There was nothing we could do,” said the elder Sousa. “We were standing outside in our underwear watching our house burn. It was a hell of a way to wake up.”

Everything the two men had, including their wallets, cell phones and clothing, was inside.

“Anything that had to do with anything is gone,” the younger Sousa said.

Before the firefighters had even doused the flames, Sousa Sr. said the American Red Cross reached him and gave him funds to buy some clothes.

Both men have places to stay, and once the insurance money comes through, Sousa Sr. said he plans to rebuild.

“We'll clean up and rebuild,” he said. “Life goes on. We just have to get through the hard stuff.”

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.


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