Leader Blues

Saturday, September 09, 2006

TOP STORY>>Cabot man saves small boy from house fire

IN SHORT: Heroic neighbor rescues child from certain death in house fire.

Leader staff writer

A house fire took the life of a 77-year-old Cabot woman Wednesday, but firefighters say a 3-year-old boy was saved by a neighbor who went into the heat and smoke twice before he found the child.

Fire Chief Phil Robinson said Robert McKenzie, who lives on Highland Boulevard, off Willie Ray Drive, was alerted to the fire by Velma Metcalf, who later died, and her daughter, Jane Reynolds, who told him that Reynolds’ young son was still asleep in his mother’s bed. The two women had been able to get Reynolds’ 6- and 7-year-old daughters out, but not the little boy.

McKenzie’s first attempt to reach the little boy failed, because of the intense heat and smoke, Robinson said.

He came out for air, but went back in and found the boy by his cries, gave him to his mother, who had also gone back in to find him and pushed them both to safety. He then went in search of Metcalf, who had entered the house with her daughter.

He found her and tried to lead her out, but she pulled away. He couldn’t help more because he was “out of air and overheated,” Robinson said.

Metcalf was dead when firefighters found her. Robinson said there is really no way to know why Metcalf pulled away from McKenzie or even if she really did.

“It could have been that she was overcome by heat and smoke and collapsed,” he said. “That would have felt like she was pulling away. But if she did pull away, it could have been because she didn’t know they had found the baby and she wasn’leaving if he couldn’t.”

Robinson issued this statement Friday about the cause of the fire: “We have completed our preliminary origin and cause investigation and determined the area of origin to be a corner of an outside deck where it joins the house on two sides. With the evidence available, we are not able to narrow the cause down to a single probability.  It is possible that a bag of charcoal stored in that area or an electric extension cord used to power an above-ground swimming pool pump caused the fire. We cannot eliminate either possibility. Unless further evidence presents itself, we must record the cause as undetermined.”

John Springer, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, helped with the investigation. Robinson said he first asked the State Police investigator to help, but he was tied up with a fire in Des Arc that killed two people.

The family lost all their belongings in the fire. Robinson said their neighbor, J.W. Palmer, 12 Pinnacle Point, is collecting donations.

The girls are virtually the same size. The 7-year-old wears a size seven dress, but all other clothing should be a size six for both. Their shoe sizes are 12 and one.

The sizes for the little boy are three for clothing and 8 for shoes.