Indiana Firefighter Rescues Elderly Amputee from Fire

An elderly woman amputee who recently suffered a stroke was pulled out of her home with the help of a Gary firefighter Tuesday morning as a suspicious fire filled the basement with smoke.
"I just did what a fireman does," said Battalion Chief Donnie Williamson, who helped two others get the woman out.
Investigators said the scene at the home raised questions about the fire's cause, but they are not calling it an arson yet.
"Anytime you have a fire start in two different places, it's suspect," Williamson said.
Lishan Pugh, who owns and lives in the house on the 3500 block of Massachusetts Street, said she had already sent five of her children off to school Tuesday morning and her grandmother, Jessie Conner, was still asleep.
Conner, a recent stroke victim, is on a feeding tube and requires regular care from her family, Pugh said.
But nothing was needed until Conner woke up, Pugh said, so Pugh decided to take a nap on the couch with her 4-year-old daughter.
"I had her in my arms," Pugh said.
When she woke up, Pugh said, the house was filled with smoke and her alarms had started going off.
Pugh said her first thoughts were that one of her children had left the microwave running as they rushed out of the house. Once she saw the smoke filling her kitchen, though, Pugh began rushing her family outside.
She said the smoke blinded her.
"I'm running into the wall because there's too much smoke," Pugh said.
Meanwhile, Williamson said he was just around the corner in his car when the call came in from Pugh's house. He turned down Massachusetts Street and found a house with "heavy smoke" pouring out of it.
"I just jumped out of the car and ran to the door," Williamson said. "There was a man and a woman wrestling with a senior citizen, trying to get her out of the door."
It was Pugh and her neighbor, Donnell Harper, trying to carry Conner out the door. Pugh said she went to Harper for help after she discovered the fire.
Williamson said he ran just inside the house to help carry Conner.
"We just got everybody out of there," he said.
Though Williamson played down his role in the rescue, his fellow firefighters spent Tuesday praising him.
"It was very heroic," Marvin Brown, president of the firefighters' union, said.
Emergency crews arrived as Williamson and the family were leaving the house, he said. It took firefighters about 30 minutes to put out the fire.
Afterward, Williamson said, investigators realized the flames began in two rooms in the basement -- the laundry room and the children's playroom.
They also noticed the back door of Pugh's house was ajar, Williamson said, something Pugh could not explain.
Williamson said there were signs of forced entry at that rear doorway, adding that Pugh had gotten into a fight with an acquaintance on Monday.
Copyright 2006, Chicago Sun-Times Inc.