Neighbors become heroes during fire: ‘It wasn’t survivable for them much longer’

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SHEFFIELD VILLAGE, Ohio-- Just one day after a Sheffield Village home went up in flames, a neighbor is being credited for saving lives.

Kelli Tomer said, "I was just getting ready to go to the grocery store and a neighbor came and knocked on my door and was ringing the doorbell kind of frantically."

That's because the house right next door was on fire.

Even scarier, Tomer knew at least two of her neighbors, including one who uses a wheelchair, were still inside.

"I had to bang on her door and ring her doorbell very persistently, loudly as loud as I could. She opened the door and her dog ran out. He was scared and I just said, 'Nicole, Nicole, your house is on fire,'" said Tomer.

Nicole Bodzenta and her 22-year-old son, who suffers from Spina bifida, had no idea the home was burning because the smoke alarms never went off.

Sheffield Village fire chief Jeff Young said that's because the fire started outside in some wood pilings in the back of the home.

Chief Young added, “Ran up the back of the house and through the soffit and into the attic, and the fire and smoke were in the attic and the smoke detectors were on the floor below."

Tomer said, “Her and I started seeing the smoke coming out of the vents and he was racing to put on his clothes and he came down the stairs the best he could. I helped him get out front to the front step. I couldn't carry him; he's a pretty big guy there."

With the help of another neighbor, Tomer said she was able to carry the victim to safety.

It took firefighters roughly 15 minutes to extinguish the flames, but not before the roof collapsed.

Four firefighters were injured but are expected to be okay.

As for the heroic efforts of some caring neighbors, Chief Young said, "Definitely saved their lives. It was a very intense fire above them. And it wasn't survivable for them much longer."

"We just had no time. It was already coming in. They would have either had a really hard time finding their way out from the smoke, you know and, we thought about the what-ifs all day," said Tomer.

The family is not able to live in the home and damage estimates have yet to be determined.

All injured firefighters were treated and released from the hospital, but one is suffering from a concussion and nerve damage in his neck.

As for a cause, the wood pilings sparked by something electrical in nature, but fire officials are still investigating.

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