By Alan Shope, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -
A huge blaze near Highway 291 and U.S. Highway 24 lit up the Independence sky Tuesday afternoon, but it's what a neighbor did in a split second that has the neighborhood talking.
It was a fire that caused more than $150,000 damage to the Hawthorne Place Apartments, 16995 E. Dover Lane, about 2:45 p.m., but thanks to quick thinking by one neighbor, it didn't cost a lot more.
"I heard a scream," said Michael Thomas. "She said 'My house is on fire, my house is on fire.'"
Thomas is a hero.
"She said her kids were upstairs so I ran around back, grabbed a brick and I threw it through the patio door. I went in and flames were already going up the steps. It was all smoky upstairs and I saw an outline of a baby in a crib and one on the bed. I grabbed one in this arm and I got the one by the hand," he said.
But it was what happened next that really scared Thomas.
"We were running down the hallway and the fire went 'whoosh' up the stairwell and the one that had my hand got scared and ran back. I was like, ‘come on, we need to go, we need to get out of here.' She came out and I grabbed her hand again. I picked them up and put them under my arms and we crouched down under the fire. Then we got up and ran out the back," he said.
It's an amazing story of rescue. One neighbor shot video on their phone last night just minutes after Thomas rescued all three kids under the age of 6.
"I was scared, but when you hear someone's kids are in trouble you want to help out," Thomas said.
Neighbors spent the day pulling out belongings and moving to new units in the complex. They said what Thomas did was pretty amazing.
"He's my hero. That's all, he's my hero," said Ruth Clevenger, whose apartment was damaged in the fire.
"I think that was pretty brave of him to go up in there and get the kids out," said neighbor Dorothea Allen.
"He's a hood neighbor, he's a good guy. I never expected him to go in there and do it, but I'm thankful he did," said neighbor Dwante Crawford.
Thomas hopes to see and talk to the neighbors he helped again very soon.
Thomas was taken to the hospital with minor burns to his hands, but was released late Tuesday night.
The family of five has not been released yet, but everyone is said to be doing fine.
The fire was under control by 3:15 p.m.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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