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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Neighbor risks life for pets

By LYDA LONGA lyda.longa@news-jrnl.com

DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- Flames shot out from the bedroom window, licking at the air-conditioning unit that had backfired, but that didn't stop Don Hall from rushing into his neighbor's house Monday morning to try and save her pets.

Dressed in only a bathrobe, Hall raced from his home at the 300 block of Hartford Avenue, and along with neighbor Sandy Tripp, attempted to save two dogs and two cats, as well as douse the flames that were engulfing the back bedroom of the house at 370 Hartford with a garden hose.

By the time Daytona Beach firefighters arrived just after 10 a.m., the blaze was "pretty much under control," said Lt. John King.

"These people formed their own neighborhood fire brigade," King said. "They put their own safety aside to go in and search for the animals."

While King praised Hall and Tripp for their valiant effort, he said fire officials do not recommend people enter a smoke and flame-engulfed house because of the obvious dangers that poses.

"We're just glad that no one got hurt," King said.

Monday afternoon, sitting in the calm of his living room, Hall reflected on the action-packed morning.

He said he and his wife were asleep when neighbor Lucille Crellin knocked on their front door screaming about a fire at Michelle Ross' house.

Hall ran to the house across the street to get Tripp, a home health aide.

"He came over and I saw the flames from here," Tripp said pointing to his friend Ross' house. "The first thing I thought of was to grab the garden hose."

The pair ran across the street with Tripp's hose and began showering the air conditioning unit outside Ross' back bedroom. The blaze had started there, fire officials said, after the window unit backfired. Hall busted a couple of windows so he could climb inside.

"I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't tried to get into that house to see if there was anyone there," Hall said.

No one was home, but Hall did hear barking and a "meow" coming from one of the rooms in the house.

"I went in six or seven times, but it was too horrendous for me," Hall said. "I had to get out."

One of the dogs scampered out of the residence, Hall and Tripp said, and the other three animals were rescued by firefighters.

Dripping in sweat as she and family members began the arduous cleanup after the inferno, Ross said she was grateful the fire, which caused roughly $20,000 in damage, was contained to her back bedroom.

"I have a house today because of my neighbors," Ross said.


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