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Man Spots House Fire, Alerts Sleeping Family in Time

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

May 18, 2011

Something seemed strange about the roaring house fire that Jeffrey Dancy encountered Tuesday morning while making his extermination rounds in south Columbus. Flames spilled out from the roof and a plume of smoke hovered over the Commander Drive residence.

But no one — including the family inside — seemed to have noticed the blaze, which had engulfed about half of the house.

“I didn’t see anyone trying to get out,” said Dancy, an Orkin pest control manager who lives in Phenix City. “I’m glad that I noticed it. The family that was in there sleeping was unaware that the house was on fire.”

Dancy hurried to the door and, finding no bell, pounded about six times as loud as he could. The knocks startled resident Donita Roberson, who awoke in a panic.

“He beat the door down,” Roberson said. “As soon as the door opened, that’s when all the smoke and everything came straight through the house, and it was thick.”

Roberson escaped the burning house with her husband and 18-year-old son, fleeing in time to avoid injury. Her other eight children were not home at the time of the fire.

“The credit should go to that Orkin exterminator,” Fire Marshal Ricky Shores said. “If he hadn’t alerted them to the fire, it could have turned out really bad. He really, really deserves credit for that.”

Firefighters responded to the blaze about 9:30 a.m. and needed about half an hour to extinguish it, Shores said. Officials said it was not clear what caused the fire, which began in a screened-in porch area and caused about $20,000 in structural damage.

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“We don’t have anything to lead us to believe it’s anything other than an accidental fire,” Shores said.

Though no injuries were reported, one casualty was narrowly averted. Paco, the family dog, was trapped in a storage area under the carport when the blaze began. Firefighters found the mixed-breed dog unresponsive and “obviously in peril just from the smoke condition,” Shores said, but they revived him with oxygen.

“He was barely breathing,” said a fire sergeant who returned to the scene Tuesday afternoon and asked not to be identified. “Now you can see he’s running around happy go lucky.”

Roberson said she lost many valuables and a pantry full of food, which was ruined by exposure to smoke. She said her family is being assisted by the American Red Cross, but may not have a place to stay after three compensated nights in a hotel.

“We’re just going to pray about it,” Roberson said. “I’m not going to separate my kids. I don’t trust nobody with my kids.”

Dancy waited a long while with Roberson as the street filled with emergency responders and concerned neighbors. She hugged the man and thanked him for his actions.

In a phone interview several hours after the smoke cleared, Dancy attributed his response to instinct and his military training.

“I don’t know them from Adam. In fact, I don’t even know their names,” said Dancy, who retired from the Navy after 20 years of service. Dancy said he trained men and women to combat fires aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“It was just part of a civic duty that I guess I wanted to make sure that the family was taken care of,” Dancy said. “It could have been me.”

“I don’t consider myself as a hero,” Dancy added. “I just consider it as divine intervention. My mind had told me to go in the opposite direction, but for some reason I ended up going in that direction.”

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

© 2009, YellowBrix, Inc.


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