It was just after midnight Thanksgiving morning when Smith rose from his bed and almost immediately had trouble breathing. Faulty electrical wiring in the 60-year-old Oxford resident’s trailer had sparked a fire and the flames had quickly spread. Escape was impossible.
“I went to the door to turn the doorknob, but the vacuum force from the fire was so much that it sucked the door shut,” Smith said.
Unable to open the door, Smith moved to one of his bedroom walls and curled into a ball. He was blinded and suffocating from the smoke, but Smith was not afraid.
“I felt at peace,” Smith said. “I didn’t think I was going to die or not die, I just let God take care of it.”
Minutes later, Oxford firefighters burst into Smith’s bedroom and carried him to safety. The three rescuers refuse to think of themselves as heroes. But Smith certainly does, and he wants everyone else to do the same.
Smith was one of several people who showed up at the Oxford Fire Department Tuesday for a special ceremony to honor the three firefighters along with a neighbor who made the initial fire call.
Fire Chief Gary Sparks presented firefighters Donnie Adams, Wesley List and Brandon Slick each with a certificate in recognition for their service. Smith and his family presented Dustin Pierce with a special plaque to thank him for making the emergency call that saved Smith’s life.
“I appreciate that I was saved,” Smith said has he choked back tears. “It changed my life so much … I’m not the same person I was.”
When the firefighters arrived at the November 2011 fire, flames and smoke were clearly visible. However, the firemen did not think anyone was home because Smith’s truck was not there, Adams said.
Adams, an eight-year full-time fireman, led the way into the trailer, using a water hose to knock out the worst of the flames. It was when he got to the bedroom, Adams said, that he found Smith slumped down by a wall.
“He was moving but was incoherent,” Adams said.
Adams yelled that he had found someone. List and Slick rushed in to help. List said he was not concerned about any potential danger from the fire.
“I was focused like a laser,” List said. “You don’t think about anything else … you have tunnel vision.”
The three men carried Smith out of the bedroom, but had trouble getting him outside. The same faulty wiring that caused the fire had electrified the frame of the trailer and shocked the firemen as they tried to exit through the outer door.
“It happened three times and we had to pitch (Smith) out because the guy outside trying to grab him kept getting shocked,” Slick said.
Though all three have been firemen for several years, Smith was the first person they had ever pulled out of a fire who survived.
“Saves are few and far between,” Sparks said. “The combination of events has to be just right … usually we get the call too late.”
Sparks said it is also rare that victims and their families will get together to thank firefighters for their service. But then, List, Adams and Slick don’t do their jobs for the recognition, they said.
“It makes us all feel good when they can go home to their families,” Slick said. “But as for us being called heroes, that’s not what we got into the job for.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star