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Local man saved from burning home

By Sherrie Williams
A man’s life was saved Thursday afternoon after the house he was remodeling caught fire and trapped him in a bedroom where he apparently had passed out while painting.
Iowa Park resident Kathy Papp and her dad Bud Thompson first alerted Iowa Park Police/Fire dispatchers to the house fire at 4:08 p.m.
Papp said she and her mother had just returned to her parents home in the 500 block West Alameda when she noticed what looked like brown dust coming from 509 West Alameda. She mentioned it to her dad, who is a retired IP volunteer fire fighter, and he told her he would call the fire department.
Papp decided she would go down to the house, which was just across the street and down two houses, and see if she could figure out what was going on.
“We didn’t smell smoke, we just saw what looked like brown dust coming from the house. As soon as I neared the house I saw it was smoke,” she said.
She called 911, just seconds after her dad called, and let them know not only was the house on fire but she believed someone was inside.
“I saw a pickup backed up to the front door which was wide open and the pickup door was open with personal items laying in the seat. When I looked inside the house I saw a foam drink cup. I knew someone was inside. I started calling out to who ever might have been in there. I saw flames in the kitchen area and started inside but part of the ceiling fell down. I got out of there quick,” said Papp.
Although she exited the burning house she continued to yell out as she tried to figure out where in the house the person was.
Her yelling alerted a neighbor who went outside to see what the yelling was about.
According to Papp when the neighbor learned what was going on they grabbed a water hose to spray their house down and noticed someone trying to kick a window out.
In the mean time Iowa Park officers who were a block away investigating a theft when they heard the fire department toned arrived on scene.
Papp alerted the officer Derek Vann and Sgt. Sherry Fowler that someone was inside the house as Iowa Park Assistant Chief Lewis Skinner arrived.
Greg James was the victim trapped in the house.
Iowa Park Police Chief Robert Johnson also arrived at the scene.
The victim could be seen trying to bust out the window in the bedroom where he was trapped. Vann and Skinner attempted to bust the window out with a stick found laying near-by.
Johnson picked up a large log and rammed it through the window and the three first responders worked quickly to clear the glass so they could safely pull the victim through the window.
Smoke could be seen rolling all around the house including out the window James was being pulled through.
While the three men were working to get James out of the house Papp could be heard telling the neighbors if they had any children in their house they should evacuate.
He was quickly taken to safety across the street from the burning house where Papp, who is a LVN, assisted with making sure James was stable while they awaited an ambulance.
Skinner transformed from paramedic mode to firefighter as the fire trucks arrived, less than five minutes from the time they were toned.
Vann quickly worked to move James’ 1972 Ford truck which was backed up near the front door of the burning house and the flames were leaping toward it.
Despite everything each of the rescuers did, including Papp, they all insisted they are not heros.
“It was a God thing,” said Papp. “ It was a team effort and God put the team of people together to save that man. I would hope anyone else would do the same thing.”
Johnson, Skinner, and Vann all said they were just doing their jobs.
Each of the four were very humble and when Mayor Schultz presented each with a life saving award for their heroic efforts during the Iowa Park City Council meeting Monday evening, they accepted gracefully, but later insisted again they were not heros.
After a two night stay in the hospital James is reportedly doing well.