'The hero of this night': Citizen helps rescue sleeping family from Madill house fire

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
Ambulance and fire truck with lights flashing

A local pressman from Ardmore helped a Madill family escape a house fire last week after kicking down their front door and waking them from their sleep. 

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, noticed smoke coming from the house on Watts Avenue while on a newspaper delivery route early Thursday morning. Flames were also visible on the side of the residence, where they appeared to be melting off part of the structure.

The man said he left his vehicle into the driveway of the house and started beating on the windows to try to get the homeowner’s attention. When nobody answered, he called 911 and jumped into action. 

Madill Fire Chief Mike Idleman said firefighters received the call around 3:18 a.m. When they arrived on scene, smoke and flames were showing from the rear side and roof of the residence, but the family who was inside had managed to make it out thanks to the man who had spotted the fire. 

Idleman said firefighters learned that the pressman and a local police officer who was on night duty had kicked open the door and entered the home to warn the family of the fire. An elderly couple in their late 80s, a female in her 50s and her daughter in her mid 20s had all been asleep inside. 

“The guy that owned the house had just celebrated his 88th birthday the day before,” Idleman said. The fire had already reached the attic when the man entered the home, and he said smoke was beginning to fill the house. 

He and the officer were able to get the elderly couple and their granddaughter out of the home, but soon realized another person was still inside and went back in. “We went back in and got the mother out of her bedroom. She was still in there, didn’t know anything was going on,” he said. 

Idleman referred to the man as "the hero of this night" as he recalled the incident. 

“When he went in, the fire had already been into the roof and they were still asleep and he went in and got everybody out of the house,” Idleman said. “I think he did save some peoples’ lives that night because he did have to actually wake them up and the fire was right above their heads.” 

Firefighters were able to get the fire under control within about an hour of their arrival. However, the house sustained substantial damage. “It’s probably going to be a total loss,” Idleman said. The fire is believed to have started on the outside of the house in a dumpster. 

“Now who put what in that dumpster to make that dumpster catch on fire at 3 o’clock in the morning, we don’t know,” Idleman said, adding that it may have been a cigarette. “Myself and the state fire marshal feel pretty confident that it was an accident— that it wasn’t arson.” 

Idleman said he believes the quick actions of the citizen and police officer prevented possible injuries or fatalities in the fire. 

“It’s a tragic loss, but I think honestly, your newspaper man, he did an exceptional job with what he did,” Idleman said. “I think if he wouldn’t have done that, I think we would have had a totally different outcome— there was no one hurt and I think he had a lot to do with that.” 

When asked what was going through his mind and why he entered the building, the pressman said he wasn’t thinking anything other than “get the people out, help them.”

“It always feels good to help someone,” he said. “If you can do some good, do it.”