A story of courage and altruism has risen from the ashes of a devastating house fire on Dec. 4 in Creswell.
A fire broke out in the backside of a residency on the eastside of North 10th Street in the early afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 4. The house is likely a total loss, fire officials said, though there could have been much more to mourn, had a few good samaritans not acted on their instincts.
The fire was called in at 12:09 p.m. that Tuesday, though the elderly couple who lived there remained trapped inside.
Devon Davenport, 31, of Cottage Grove, is employed at Charter Spectrum and just so happened to be working on a line on the opposite side of 10th Street, when he noticed plumes of thick smoke and gawkers with their cell phones pointed toward the house. No fire personnel were yet on scene.
When Davenport, father of two, got to the house, he asked the onlookers if anyone had called 911 or had checked to see if anyone was inside.
No one had.
He prompted the onlookers to call in the fire and to tell the neighboring houses to evacuate. He ran up to the burning house and knocked on the front door. With no answer, he turned the knob, took a deep breath, and walked into the house.
Upon opening the door, Davenport was greeted by a woft of thick smoke. Just as he opened the door, he caught a glimpse of the woman who lived in the house. She hurried toward the back of the house, where her husband sat in a wheelchair in the kitchen.
Davenport called for them to get out of the house, grabbed the garden hose and sprayed down what he could reach. He doused the walkway from the kitchen to the living room, hoping to carve out a path for which the couple could escape.
As Davenport was spraying the garden hose, a scream for help beckoned from the kitchen.
Davenport fought his way back closer toward the flames.
The woman was laying on the floor in the kitchen, with the man in his wheelchair nearby. Fiery and charred support beams dropped from the ceiling. The couple lay positioned about three feet away from an inferno of flames.
The woman was sprawled on the floor and couldn’t move. The man insisted he wouldn’t leave the house until his wife was safe.
Davenport managed to grab the woman and drag her from the kitchen to about five feet from the front door, but needed help dragging her the rest of way out of the house.
And that’s when Davenport yelled, ”Help! Somebody help! She can’t get out!” at the top of his lungs.
And that’s when a local painter heeded the call.
Mathew Wildman, 48, of Springfield, is a house painter and was on the job in the area that afternoon.
Wildman, father of two, saw the smoke billowing from three blocks away and drove over to check it out.
”It didn’t look like there was much of a commotion yet,” Wildman said. ”Others were standing around, so in my mind I thought everyone must have been out of the house.”
He snapped a couple of photos and started to record a video, when he heard Davenport’s calls from inside the house. And without thinking, just like Davenport had done, Wildman busted into the front door, not knowing what to expect on the other side.
What he saw was the husband in his chair next to his wife, still insisting he wouldn’t leave her side until he knew she would be safe, and Davenport trying to pick up and drag the woman closer and closer to the door.
He wheeled the man out of the house, came back in and spoke sweetly to the woman as they worked to get her out of the house.
”I just remember saying, ‘we got you, sweetie, we’re gonna get you out,’” as he was on his knees trying to grab her and pull her out the door. It was tough to drag her, the men said, and it was about a good minute and a half until Davenport and Wildman managed to get her to out the door.
By then, Wildman had began choking and coughing from inhaling all the smoke and had stepped aside on the lawn to catch his breath.
And that’s when another good samaritan stepped up to the plate.
Kenny McCabe, 28, of Creswell, is the owner of Diamond Blade Supply Northwest here in town, and like the rest of the men, said he just so happened to be ”in the right place, at the right time.”
McCabe, father of three, lives nearby on Evergreen Drive, so when he saw smoke in the skies near the school, he took off like a bat out of Hell thinking Creslane Elementary School was on fire.
Upon closer examination, he realized it wasn’t the school that was on fire, but a residency on 10th Street.
As far as McCabe could gather, her arrived about five minutes before South Lane County Fire & Rescue and Pleasant Hill fire departments showed up on scene, and about the same time Davenport and Wildman were in the house rescuing the couple. When he saw there was trouble, his instinct was to lend a helping hand, wherever help was needed.
So when Wildman began to choke and needed to take a breather after they successfully got the woman out of the house, McCabe helped Davenport carry the woman from the front porch to the sidewalk, where her husband waited in tears, praying to see his wife again, praying to see her safe.
This all happened in a just matter of minutes, in an intense blur and in the blink of an eye, the men said.
With all parties safe, and with fire personnel now arriving on scene, McCabe ran around to see if there’s any more he could do to help. He helped a firefighter wrestling with a firehose at the back of the property and stepped aside when everything was under control.
And then Davenport, Wildman and McCabe went back to their respective jobs, and continued on with their day.
”I just love this little town and am just glad I was there to help,” McCabe said.
He said the real heroes of this story are the firefighters who managed to control that fire very shortly after they arrived on scene.
According to fire logs, SLCF&R reportedly extinguished the fire in about 45 minutes, by 12:55 p.m., and the couple reportedly made it out OK, though the woman suffered a burn on her foot and was treated for the injury.
For these three samaritans, they were ”doing what needed to be done.”
Each of these men recounted their actions that day with such modesty and unpretentiousness – shy to even talk about it at all. These three men believe that their instincts propelled them to do what needed to be done, that there is nothing special about that, that anyone can do the same.
But it takes a certain kind of person to run into a house on fire, not knowing what will be seen or what kind of situations may be encountered. It takes a deep reservoir of courage to step up and take risks to save others; these mens’ wells run deeper than most.
The family believes the fire was started by a heat lamp on the back porch that got knocked over, though this has not yet been confirmed with fire officials.
More information will be released as it becomes available.