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Off-duty Russellville firefighters save Morgan Countians from house fire

When off-duty Russellville Fire Department firefighters Sgt. Shane Mansell and Michael Hall set out around 4:30 a.m. March 21 to head to South Carolina to pick up a bass boat Mansell had purchased, they had no idea what was in store.

Mansell said they’d made it east of Danville, in the Massey area, traveling on Highway 157. It was early in the morning, still dark out, when they noticed a glow coming from behind some portable storage buildings. A trailer truck was pulled over on the side of the road with its flashers on.

“I looked at Michael and said ‘That house is on fire,’ so I immediately did a U-turn and drove back up the eastbound lane – we weren’t far – and pulled in the driveway,” Mansell explained.

The pair found flames and smoke coming from the back of a house, which they later discovered had been divided into two apartments. A woman was standing in the yard.

“There was a language barrier,” Hall added. “We ran inside to the first bedroom.”

Hall said they found a man and two more people, including a girl who looked to be around middle school age.

“We thought we had gotten everybody out of the first apartment, and then somebody said someone was in the other apartment, so Shane and I ran to the other one,” Hall said. “There was a middle-aged man and around a 5-year-old boy, and we were able to get them out through the bedroom window.”

Mansell and Hall kept everyone huddled together in the front yard and while they worked to make sure everybody had been evacuated – when they learned a girl had gone back in to rescue her dog. Mansell and Hall leapt back into action.

“Shane got the girl, and I got the dog, and we got all of them out,” Hall said.

“At that point, we were pretty sure everybody was out,” he added, “so we got them all to a vehicle and got it cranked because it was cold.”

Hall that was about the time the Massey Fire Department showed up. Mansell assisted the MFD in getting their truck set up, after which they went on full attack to extinguish the fire.

With the fire department and ambulance then on the scene, Mansell and Hall said they felt the situation was well in hand. So there was nothing else for them to do but resume their trip.

“I don’t know who the truck driver was or what company he worked for, but he was a great help to us, too,” Hall added, “and he’s the one that got hold of 911 and the ambulance service and gave directions to the fire department to come and help us.

Hall said the fire department was grateful for their help, adding he and Mansell thank God “they were in the right place at the right time.” In all, five people and a dog were saved.

Hall said they didn’t notice any smoke detectors in the home, and he emphasized the importance of everyone making sure they have working, well-placed smoke detectors in their homes and businesses.

“The truck driver had thought it was an office building or the portable buildings that were burning,” Hall added, “but he said something told him to turn around and, when he got stopped, to get out of the truck, at which point we pulled up.”

Hall said they don’t know if anyone was transported to the hospital, but “nobody was bad injured, though some of them might have had smoke inhalation. We left right after emergency crews got on the scene. We have no idea how the fire started.”

Mansell estimated the fire had been going on “minutes” when they arrived.

“There wasn’t a ton of heat in the house, but there was a significant amount of smoke, so we didn’t have a lot of visibility,” Hall added. “It was a reflex. We didn’t have time to think about what we needed. We didn’t have any firefighting gear. We just got out of the truck and got in the house as fast we could.”

Hall said he’s just grateful and thankful to God that everybody was OK and that they were able to do their part to help.

Mansell and Hall, both humble about their roles in the emergency, said it was just the right thing to do, and they are glad it all worked out with everyone safe, reiterating their gratitude for being in the right place at the right time.

RFD Chief Joe Mansell said he’s “so very proud” of Mansell and Hall for their responses. He said neither of the firefighters were seeking any publicity or praise; they “just did what they had to do – what they were supposed to do.”

“You can definitely see that God placed them at the right place at the right time,” the chief added. “They train all the time, but we’re always training with gear on and air packs. Firefighting is a dangerous job even with all the gear on, so for them to do what they did without gear, they definitely put their training to work and did what needed to be done.”

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