Volunteer firefighters save man from Kenansville house fire
KENANSVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Warsaw firefighter Blake Phillips and Faison fire chief Lee Kennedy were celebrating the Warsaw police chief’s retirement on Friday when they were called to help put out a house fire in Kenansville.
“Volunteer fire department and volunteer fire service, oftentimes their responding agencies are coming from their home,” Phillips said. “Because we were up here, we were able to get to the man’s house in a timely manner which is actually on the other side of Kenansville. So, we had to go, not only, through our fire district but also Kenansville’s fire district.”
Several crews were on scene near Paul Ed Dail Road, in Kenansville, off of Hwy 50 to put out the fire, and Phillips and Kennedy went inside with a hose when they heard a call for help.
“I heard somebody holler ‘help me, I can’t breathe.’ And Blake heard the same thing,” Kennedy said.
No one was told someone was inside before Kennedy and Phillips entered the home.
In the thick smoke, a man was found on the floor near the backdoor, conscious and alive. Both Phillips and Kennedy couldn’t see clearly but described the man as an older adult over the age of 50 who needed a walker or wheelchair.
“The smoke in that house was so black at the time, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” Phillips said.
Kennedy said the man said he was in his bed when the smoke woke him up. And he got out of bed and crawled to escape, giving up, when both men found him, picked him up, and got him out of the house in less than five minutes.
“Blake said [the man] had said he had given up and knew it was his time. And he said he saw a light. And that was Blake’s light from his helmet,” Kennedy said. “When we got to him and said ‘hey, we’re gonna get you out.’”
EMS crews were on standby outside. And the man was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
The cause of the fire, which took about two hours to get under control, is undetermined, but a man is alive thanks to their quick actions. The home was a total loss, but the man’s clothes in the closet were still intact and salvageable, Phillips said.
Phillips, 22, said it feels rewarding to do what he’s trained for since 2015, serving the community and protect property and save lives.
“It feels like hard work is paid off,” Phillips said.
“Oftentimes, our outcome is not this good with a victim,” Kennedy said. “Normally, we’re either too late. Last night, we were all lucky. We were at the right place at the right time.”
Both Phillips and Kennedy said it was a group effort and praised volunteer firefighters for their service. Duplin County is primarily a volunteer [firefighter] county, according to Phillips.
“Nobody backed down from the challenge,” Kennedy said.
“We’re all volunteers. And we’re all giving our free time on a Friday evening to protect and serve,” Phillips said. “It’s just a community of volunteers that really makes an impact.”
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