MASSILLON, Ohio - An elderly man in a wheelchair and his adult son were heroically rescued from their burning home in Massillon.
The fast-moving fire started inside the kitchen at 125 25th Street sometime before 10 am Saturday, and was quickly spreading when neighbors noticed the smoke.
“We thought it was smoke from the dryer vent at first,” said Ben Conley. “By the time we got over there you could see the flames and windows cracking.”
“I had to do something,” said Conley, who could hear his neighbors screaming for help.
While Conley’s girlfriend, Rose Martin, called 911 he entered the house through the back door and found his 49-year-old neighbor on the floor.
The man had fallen and suffered a broken hip and injured shoulder.
Conley says, he grabbed the man's hand and pulled him to safety.
About the same time, around the front of the house, Assistant Fire Chief Paul Harbaugh had arrived on scene before the engine company or ladder company and learned the 92-year-old wheelchair bound homeowner was still inside.
“The smoke conditions were very, very bad, it was to the floor. It was also a very hot fire. So there were lots and lots of things working against him,” said Firefighter Jason Castile.
Harbaugh didn’t have any safety gear or even a breathing apparatus, but could see the fire intensifying and decided to risk his own life to save the man.
“Chief Harbaugh went to the door, got down on his belly, crawled into the house and was able to feel around and find the gentleman and pull him out of the house,” said Castile, who arrived moments later with multiple other firefighters and crews from neighboring cities to battle the blaze.
Both father and son were rushed to Aultman Hospital where they were being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Castile says entering a burning building without proper equipment and training is never recommended and just puts more lives in danger.
However, in this situation the homeowners were definitely saved.
“You don’t always see good outcomes,” said Castile. “It’s a pretty gutsy thing.”
But Assistant Chief Harbaugh, Rose Martin and Ben Conley do not want any recognition for their actions, and they absolutely don’t think of themselves as heroes.
They say everyone deserves credit from all of the neighbors who tried to help, to the dispatchers and firefighters who responded.
“I would hope that anybody would do it,” said Rose, “It’s not like we knew what we were doing, we just did what we thought we could.”