TWINSBURG, Ohio -- A Summit County man is being credited with saving the life of his neighbor, who was trapped inside her burning apartment Saturday night.
Investigators say 45-year-old Nikki Efford would not have survived if her neighbor had not taken quick action. On Monday, she got to say "thank you" to her rescuer, 50-year-old Wade Wooten.
Efford told Fox 8 News she owes her life to Wooten and is now able to show her gratitude for his uncommon bravery and heroism.
"Oh my God ... Good Samaritan does not say enough for someone that gives their own life, not only to save me but to try and save my babies also," Efford said.
Efford was asleep in a second-floor bedroom with her four dogs at her apartment on Saturday when a fast-moving fire ignited on the first floor.
Wooten was taking his dogs for a walk and saw smoke and flames pouring from Efford's apartment and knew he had to move quickly.
"I hit the door, it came open, I saw an airspace on the floor. I crawled in and I didn't hear her at first. I hollered and hollered and hollered," Wooten said.
Wooten said he realized that he would be unable to get through the smoke and flames, so he crawled back outside and ran to the back of the apartment and climbed up on a balcony.
Additionally, Wooten says the most difficult part of the rescue was convincing Efford to leave her dogs behind and jump from the balcony.
"He said, 'Nikki, you've got to jump.' I said, 'No, Wade, my babies. My babies are in there.' He said, 'You've got to jump now,'" Efford said.
"The balcony broke loose, part of it fell, and I told her, 'We have to go because we're falling,' and it fell; I kind of scooped her up and we came back up front and then I kept her from trying to go back inside,'" Wooten said.
In the midst of the sadness over the loss of her dogs, Efford now realizes how close she came to losing her life.
"If I would have been there another two minutes, we would have all died; it just wouldn't have been my babies, it would have also been me because I would have gone into a deeper sleep and not woken up," Wooten said.
In an incredible show of compassion, Wooten gave Efford his dog, Chloe. Ironically, Efford had actually given Wooten Chloe as a gift three years ago. He said Efford needs Chloe to fill the void in her heart.
Investigators say it appears the fire may have been caused by an electrical problem inside the apartment.
The City of Twinsburg is now planning to honor Wooten for his courage.