An early-morning fire Monday in Oakwood left an elderly woman and her adult son, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, without their home of eight years — and most everything else.
But as Brenda Masters nursed a burned hand she suffered trying to put out the fire, she said she was grateful that she, her son and two dogs were alive.
“It’s hurting me some, but I feel lucky,” she said Monday afternoon. “I got my son out and I got my babies (the dogs) out.”
Maybe lucky with a little help from a police officer who was able to help pull the son out of the house, firefighters who extinguished the fire and rescued the two dogs and neighbors who provided a place to stay and help with immediate needs.
The fire was reported about 6 a.m. on the 4200 block of Shawnee Drive, according to a statement from Zachary Brackett, spokesman for Hall County Fire Services. He said firefighters quickly contained the blaze to a bedroom in the 1,800-square-foot home. The rest of the home had “significant smoke damage,” according to Brackett.
Masters and her son, Larry McDonald, were taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where they were released later in the day. They were staying with their neighbors, David and Kathie Ladd, Monday afternoon.
The fire was ruled an accident with the cause related to smoking in the home, according to Brackett.
Masters and the Ladds said the fire started when McDonald accidentally dropped a cigarette on his wheelchair, which was close to his oxygen line.
“He woke me up hollering, and I got to him as quick as I could and his chair was ablaze,” Masters said. “I was slapping at the chair, trying to put the fire out, and I couldn’t put it out.”
After losing another son in April to a heart attack, she said she was determined to do what she could to save this son’s life.
“I had to get him out of the house; I was afraid his oxygen was going to blow,” she said. “So, I pulled him. He’s two hundred and thirty-something pounds, and I drug him from his room all the way through the kitchen and through the living room — almost to the door. By that time the police were there.”
Cpl. Jason Crowder of the Oakwood Police Department said he saw Masters as soon as he and other police officers arrived on the scene.
“We arrived on the scene; there was heavy smoke coming from the house and a frantic mother crying, screaming,” Crowder said. “I had another officer hold the flashlight as I entered the house. He was paralyzed; he’s got medical conditions and couldn’t get out. I just went in, grabbed him and pulled him out of the house.”
Crowder, who has worked with the Oakwood Police Department for six years, didn’t put on any protective equipment before going into the home.
“I just reacted,” he said. “I’m just glad everyone’s fine; that’s what I cared about. I didn’t think about it. I just thought that if I don’t get him out, who knows what’s going to happen. There wasn’t fire in the living room — that was more in the back of the house — but there was black, heavy smoke. It was real intense for those 30-40 seconds.”
McDonald said he is grateful to Crowder and his mother.
“I appreciate that officer’s help,” he said. “My mama saved my life, but he got me out of the living room. My mama drug me out of the fire back there.”
Crowder and Oakwood Police Chief Randall Moon said Crowder did what officers are trained to do.
“We come in every day and we do our job,” Moon said. “We never know what faces us, but we face it head-on. And he obviously did that. It made a difference, saved a life. We are proud of him.”
The Ladds were helping Masters and McDonald Monday night by providing a place to stay and also helping to contact medical officials to help get oxygen for McDonald. The mother and son received money from the Red Cross to help with needs.
“They’re wonderful people; I feel so bad that this has happened,” said Kathie Ladd.
“We’re just trying to accommodate them,” David Ladd added.
Both mother and son lost their wheelchairs in the fire, as well as other belongings. Masters said she was not certain what their plans would be in the coming days.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said.