ENCINITAS — The canine has long been considered “man’s best friend,” but one dog raised the standards on what that description really means.
Thanks to Zed, a 7-year-old golden retriever, at least two people escaped harm during an early morning fire July 26 in the 900 block of Regal Road. “ He just kept barking and causing commotion telling me to ‘get up,’” said Zed’s owner James Booth.
When Booth went outside to investigate at his dog’s urgings he saw a woman setting fire to one of the automobiles in the nearby carport of his duplex that houses two units. “It’s a good thing Zed woke me up because he saved some lives, “Booth said. “He’s the hero in this story.”
However, Booth deserves some credit despite his modesty. The native Australian who moved into the unit just three months ago apprehended the suspected arsonist who was standing near the flames watching the fire reek havoc on the structure.
According to reports from witnesses who do not wish to be identified, a woman was seen pouring a liquid on one of the vehicles at the scene and setting it aflame. Booth was able to hold the woman until the Sherriff’s Department arrived and arrested the suspect who was reportedly intoxicated.
Nancy Lee Ellis, 64, is being held at the Las Colinas Detention Facility on charges of arson on a $75,000 bail. While no official motive was given as to why the petite woman would allegedly turn to arson, someone close to the situation who did not wish to be identified suspected jealously and anger. “We all get mad at people but we don’t torch people’s cars,” the person said.
In fact, the longtime owners of the property, Robert Small and Mike Ikeda, said they were mystified as to what would motivate someone to allegedly endanger so many lives. The modest duplex is separated only by a driveway from other duplexes and could have easily spread without the quick actions of Zed and his owner Booth.
“The sad part of this is that it’s so unnecessary,” Small said as he looked at the charred remains of the structure he has owned for 25 years. “For something so patently evil to occur is incomprehensible.” The North County resident shook his head in disbelief. “I’ll be OK, but my tenants have to now go stay with friends and try to carry on with their lives.”
Marianne LaPiedra has lived in one of the duplex units for nearly 20 years. Her BMW was the first car to be set on fire. Booth’s unit, situated closest to the carport, sustained fire and smoke damage as well.
The blaze was reported at approximately 1:45 a.m. and was extinguished some 30 minutes later according to Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Jim Sturtevant.
When firefighters arrived at the duplex, LaPiedra’s BMW, Booth’s pickup truck and the entire carport they were parked under were engulfed in flames he said.
The fire was also beginning to spread to the front of the home and the roof.
Approximately 25 firefighters from Encinitas, Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe battled the fire.
But in the end, Zed is the one who comes out as the “true hero.” Taking his charred doggie toy from a pile of rubble, he bounced back into the house the day after the fire as if everything were normal. “We’re just going to keep going and be glad Zed was there to save us,” Booth said.