TWINSBURG, Ohio -- Twinsburg firefighters were called out to a fire at the Whitewood apartments Saturday evening and were told that 45-year-old Nikki Efford had been trapped inside the building with her four dogs.
Before they arrived though, Efford's neighbor, Wade Wooten, a maintenance worker and a U.S. Navy veteran, was walking his dogs and saw the smoke and flames pouring out of her apartment.
"I hit the door, it came open, smoke rolled out, I saw an air space on the floor, I crawled in, started hollering for her and I didn't hear her at first, I hollered and hollered and hollered until I heard her voice, told her she had to go out the back, the house is on fire," said Wooten.
Realizing he could not reach her through the heavy smoke, Wooten went back outside, ran to the back of the apartment and climbed up on the balcony. He was relieved to find her despite all the smoke.
Efford did not want to leave the apartment without her dogs, but Wooten convinced her that if they both didn't leave then, they would both die.
"I told her, I said I can't get the dogs, the balcony broke loose, part of it fell and I told her 'we have to go', because we're falling and it fell, we both fell and hit the floor, I kind of scooped her up and we came back up around front and then I kept her from trying to go back inside."
Both were treated for smoke inhalation. Unfortunately, Nikki's four dogs perished in the blaze. But firefighters and Nikki's family say if not for Wooten, the outcome would have been much different.
"And to see that heavy black smoke, all that black smoke is highly poisonous, so I mean he risked his own life to save his neighbor," said Lt. Marcus Ketner.
The cause of the fire has not been determined yet.