Neighbor saves woman from house fire

Published 5:25 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

Willard James didn’t suspect something was wrong Thursday afternoon when he smelled smoke while doing yard work outside his home.

James initially thought the smoke was from a neighbor’s barbeque grill, but when he went to investigate the smoke’s source, he realized his neighbor, 83-year-old widow Lois Hall, was in serious danger.

“The smoke was coming from her house,” James said. “I threw everything down and ran because I knew Mrs. Hall was in that house.”

James was unable to enter Hall’s house through the front door so he ran to the back door where he found Hall standing in her kitchen. He could barely make out Hall’s silhouette as the grey smoke engulfed her home on County Road 89.

“The smoke was so thick I had to break the door down to get in, and when I opened that door, (the smoke) went everywhere,” James said. “I was only about three steps from where she was so I took a step or so in there, and I reached and grabbed her and brought her to me. That’s basically what happened.”

The Calera and Montevallo fire departments later extinguished the fire, which was caused by grease igniting on a stove. Hall only suffered a cut to her arm.

“She checked out good, and that’s the only thing that matters,” James said. “I was in worst shape than she was. That smoke … it was awful. If I hadn’t been there, we would’ve had a funeral today.”

James’ son, Bill, who lives in the same neighborhood as his father and Hall, said it is a blessing Hall wasn’t seriously injured.

“She was just minutes from the smoke overtaking her,” Bill said. “It was quite an afternoon.”

Hall’s home sustained serious damage. She will stay with her sister until repairs are made.

James has been heralded as a hero since coming to Hall’s rescue, but he believes his good deed is more neighborly than heroic.

“I’ve lived here for 35 years, and she’s been my neighbor. She needed help, so I helped her,” he said.