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November 8, 2012

Clinton man rescues neighbor from fire

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

Thomas

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Nicholas Thomas always wondered how he would react in the face of danger.

“It is something I have thought about my entire life,” he said. “What would happen if you ever were driving by, and there was a car flipped over and it was on fire? Would you get out and help that person?”

The 34-year-old Clinton Township resident got his answer around noon on Oct. 30, when his neighbor’s daughter began frantically knocking on the door of his home on Arlington Drive, looking for help.

“She was screaming, ‘My house is on fire! My house is on fire! Help me save my family,’” Thomas said.

A grease fire had broken out in their home, and the woman’s mother had fallen and been knocked unconscious, according to police reports. Both his neighbor’s daughters and their young children were able to escape from the home.

“All I kept thinking about were those babies, and that woman I had talked to almost on a daily basis,” she said. “How could I just not help them?”

At that point, Thomas said, his adrenaline took over because, despite a debilitating spine condition that requires him to use a cane, he risked his own safety to go into the home, which, by the time he entered, was filled with a foul, black smoke that made it almost impossible to see or breathe.

“Just because I’ve never been in that home before, walking in with zero visibility, it was a guessing game. Where do you start?” he added.

He used his fire extinguisher to put out the fire, which had spread to the carpet and up the wall.

After stepping outside to breathe, he found out from them that the mother, Pam Sanders, was still unconscious in the house. So he went back in, threw Sanders over his right shoulder and carried her to his house.

Thomas’ wife, Jessica, who had worked as a patient homecare technician, was home at the time. Thomas said he then had his wife call 911 and went back to the house with another fire extinguisher to make sure the fire was out.

It was then that he began to feel the toll the activity had on his back, which he was still feeling days afterward. But the situation had developed so quickly, he never had time to consider not helping.

“I felt like the only option was to just do this, and if I collapse, I collapse,” he said. “I don’t know how I did it.

“Normally I have a hard time moving boxes.”

Though Thomas isn’t looking for recognition, Clinton Township police have nominated him for a citizen award, said Clinton Township Police Capt. Bruce Wade.

Wade said, although people should always try to act in the safest manner possible, some are willing to go the extra mile when an emergency arises.

“You really have to take your hat off to someone who’s willing to put their own safety in jeopardy to bring (someone else) to safety,” the police captain added.

Since the fire, Sanders has been living in a hotel, due to the fire damage. She also has had a cough because of smoke inhalation. But her doctor told her she likely would have died, had she been in the smoke an extra five minutes, she said.

“Words can’t even express the gratitude that me and my family have toward him (for) getting me out of the house,” Sanders added. “Without him, I would not be here.”