Unexpected heroes

Published 3:50 am Sunday, June 22, 2014

Passersby help people trapped in burning house


Heroes don’t always wear capes, uniforms or badges. They aren’t always scanning the skies, or roaming alleyways for an inkling of crime or damsels in distress.

Sometimes, they just wear regular clothes and are looking for something to eat. That’s exactly what Ironton residents Cody Blackburn and Tyler Hager were doing early Sunday morning when the pair noticed a cloud of smoke rising in to the air.

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“We had just got done watching some movies at a friend’s house,” Hager said. “Cody and I were hungry so we decided to go get some food. While we were driving we noticed this cloud. Or we thought it was a cloud at first. It was pitch black and we realized it was smoke and that something was on fire.”

That something was a house located on South Sixth Street.

When Blackburn and Hager arrived at the house they noticed that no fire trucks or first responders were on the scene. They alerted a neighbor to call 9-1-1 and the two decided to take action.

“We just ran up to the side of the house and we could hear people screaming,” Blackburn said. “There was a guy hanging out of the window and we tried to get him to jump but the window wasn’t big enough for him to get out of. We knew we were going to have to go in.”

“We just decided to kick the door down,” Hager added. “It was a big double door but it came down on the first kick.”

The two men then entered the home and the thick black smoke immediately filled their lungs, restricting their breathing and burning their eyes.

“You hear about how bad the smoke from a fire can be,” Hager said. “But, you have no idea until you are actually surrounded by it how bad it really is. We were in there 15 seconds and had to get out. It just suffocates you.”

Now back on the outside of the house Blackburn and Hager regrouped, gathering in some deep breaths of clean air before going back into the house. Staying low to the ground where there was a pocket of smokeless air, the pair crawled around the house with their senses limited and minds racing.

“We couldn’t see anything,” Blackburn said. “But, we could hear them upstairs screaming. They couldn’t see anything either so we just started crawling through the house hitting the floor and screaming so they could follow the sounds we were making.”

The two people trapped in the upper floor of the house were eventually able to make it down the stairs thanks to the audible directions from the dynamic duo. But, getting downstairs was only half of the battle.

“Once we got them downstairs we still had to get them out,” Hager said. “So I just grabbed the woman by the arm and basically drug her out of the house. The guy and Cody followed behind us.”

Their faces were covered in soot and the fire in the house was spreading, sending more and more smoke into the air.

“It’s crazy how it spreads,” Blackburn said. “When we first went in, it was just the corner of the kitchen that was on fire. By the time we got out it had the kitchen covered and was spreading to other rooms.”

With everyone safe Blackburn and Hager awaited the arrival of the fire department and were thanked by the occupants of the house, Dickie Abrams and Whitney Vogelsong.

“We didn’t realize it at the time but we actually know Dickie,” Blackburn said. “We had biology classes with him in college. They were both really grateful and appreciative of what we did.”

Blackburn and Hager said they were grateful for the actions they took that night as well.

“Something like that puts things into perspective,” Hager said. “I mean it’s life changing. I’m just thankful I was there and was able to do something to help them. It gives you a sense of satisfaction too. I feel like I could die satisfied, like I’ve accomplished something now.”

“Got to thank God for putting us in that situation,” Blackburn added. “We didn’t have a choice in the matter. We knew we had to do something and I think God helped us get through it.”