Off-Duty Firefighter Aids Family in South Carolina

An off-duty city firefighter helped save a family of four who was unaware their home was burning early Sunday morning.

Michael Morris, a resident of Colonial Estates, just off North Fraser Street, was enjoying a quiet morning at home when his wife, Myrtle Morris, saw smoke drifting out of the neighbor's garage about 9:30 a.m.

Michael Morris dialed 911 and ran down the street. He banged on the front door of the wooden home, yelling for everyone to get out.

Lisa Ackerman, her husband, Walt Ackerman, mother-in-law Gail Ackerman and 2-year-old Andrew Ackerman escaped the fire but lost most of their household possessions.

The fire would have been worse if Morris hadn't sounded the alert before the flames spread to the rest of the home, David Geney, a battalion chief with the Georgetown County Fire Department, said.

Lisa Ackerman was going to the garage to investigate the source of "popping noises" when Morris told her family to evacuate.

"Lisa heard the knocking on our door, so she didn't open the interior garage door," Gail Ackerman said. "She said she heard someone tell her not to open the garage door, and I said, 'That must have been God talking.'"

Gail Ackerman's husband, Clifford Ackerman, who is stationed with the 178th Field Artillery National Guard unit in Kuwait, was talking to his wife and grandson by phone when the fire broke out.

He had to call Gail Ackerman back on her cell phone to learn everyone was OK.

Walt Ackerman was nearly overcome by smoke after returning to the house for a fireproof safe and his car keys, Gail Ackerman said. He was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, Geney said.

At least two county firefighters were injured while fighting the fire, Geney said.

One had a hand injury, and another suffered from smoke inhalation, he said. Both were taken to Georgetown Memorial Hospital.

The names and conditions of the firefighters were not known Sunday afternoon. Geney did not know the cause of the blaze.

The fire started in the garage, then spread quickly through the three bedroom, two-bath structure.

Morris, a fire marshal for the Georgetown Fire Department, comforted the family and talked to neighbors while county firefighters sprayed the structure.

Morris moved to Devine Street about two years ago, after losing his home in Kensington to a structure fire, he said.

Neighbors have said they were lucky to have a firefighter living on their street, Lisa Ackerman said.

She wiped her eyes and cried as she watched the firefighters on the roof of her home.

"If Michael hadn't beat on the door, I don't know what would have happened," said Wayne Cribb, who lives nearby. "It was already blazing by the time I got here. The flames were through the roof."

Distributed by the Associated Press