Resident honored for lifesaving rescue

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 23, 2015

 West Bloomfield High School students cheer on Donohue for his lifesaving rescue.

West Bloomfield High School students cheer on Donohue for his lifesaving rescue.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


WEST BLOOMFIELD — In the early morning of Aug. 22, Westacres resident Harvey Donohue awoke to people yelling outside that a neighbor’s house was on fire.

Donohue and his wife “jumped up and ran across the street” to find his lifelong friend Duncan Galbraith’s house burning, Donohue said. But Galbraith, whom Donohue knew would need extra assistance getting out of the house because he uses a walker, was not among the neighbors standing in the street.

Donohue attempted to kick in Galbraith’s front door, “like on TV,” but it didn’t open, he said. He then ran around the house and gained entry through the back door.

“I could hear them yelling (outside) that (Galbraith) was in the downstairs bedroom. … I opened the door, and he was in there sleeping,” Donohue said.

Donohue woke Galbraith and helped him out of the house as the police and fire units were arriving.

The West Bloomfield Fire Department received the call about the fire in the 3400 block of Oakleaf Drive at 1:17 a.m. According to Deputy Fire Marshal Byron Turnquist, the fire was concentrated on the rear deck, and the inside of the house was filled with smoke.

The fire was under control by about 1:30 a.m., Turnquist said. The back porch was damaged in the fire, as was siding on the exterior of the home. Smoke damaged the inside of the house.

Galbraith, who has lived in West Bloomfield for 53 years, said he was told by the Fire Department that his bedroom would have been enveloped in flames had the fire burned for five or 10 minutes longer.

“The candle I blew out, the ember on the candle dropped down to the cushion below and smoked for a few hours, and next thing I know, Harvey’s at my back door yelling the house is on fire,” Galbraith said, adding that the smoke alarms were not sounding.

Although the entire event lasted only two or three minutes, Donohue, who is the assistant principal for Walled Lake Western High School, said the key was to assess what was happening before he helped Galbraith. 

“With my job, I deal with crazy situations all the time. … I didn’t really get worked up,” Donohue said.

At the West Bloomfield School District’s Family Fun Night held Sept. 11, Donohue was awarded the Meritorious Citizen Award for his commitment to performing the lifesaving rescue of his neighbor. The award was presented to him before the 7 p.m. football game by Fire Chief Greg Flynn and West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste.

Galbraith said he is thankful to be alive today, and it’s because of Donohue’s actions.

“Harvey, he’s a good guy. He sprung into action right away. He didn’t think twice about himself,” Galbraith said.