05/11/08 — Dog saves woman from burning house

View Archive

Dog saves woman from burning house

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 11, 2008 2:01 AM

A 911 call comes in from a woman on Birch Drive.

She knows one of her neighbor's homes is in flames, and thinks the fire might be spreading down the block.

Goldsboro firefighters are called to the scene.

Gloria Johnson has no idea the back of her mother's house is on fire.

She is fading in and out of sleep.

She can't smell smoke or hear fire eating through the roof.

Several neighbors rush down the street and start banging on the doors and walls.

They are screaming.

And luckily for Ms. Johnson, her 1-year-old dog, Skipper hears them.

"I heard the smoke alarm, but I had just taken some medicine and laid down," Ms. Johnson said. "I just couldn't get up. But Skipper, he was all over me."

After a few minutes with the dog in her face, she "came to."

"When I came to, I could hear (the neighbors) screaming. They were banging on the side and hollering at the back room," she said. "Skipper had heard them the whole time. He was trying to get me out."

He succeeded.

A thick cloud of black smoke met the dog and his owner in the hallway leading to the front door.

But as it happened, they escaped without injury.

The same could not be said for the house.

Fire Chief Alvin Ward called it "somewhat totaled," and early estimates identified close to $200,000 in damages.

Capt. Harold Isler said by the time his crews reached the scene, there was little chance of a better scenario.

"From the road, you could pretty much follow the smoke in the sky," he said. "When we got here, there was heavy smoke showing and fire coming from the back. The back was real bad."

So bad that four engines and one ladder truck were called to the scene.

An hour after the blaze broke out, firefighters were still on Birch Drive.

They were checking for hot spots but had also undertaken another mission.

Ms. Johnson was standing in front of her bedroom window, one that had blown out during the blaze.

Through it, firefighters were passing her clothing and other belongings.

"We're trying to salvage what we can for her," Ward said. "Pictures, family mementos."

And each time an item or box came out, covered in black residue and water, another tear ran down Ms. Johnson's face.

"I'm OK, but it's tough," she said. "If this had happened during the week, if nobody had been banging, I probably would have slept right through it."

And if not for her dog, Skipper, they both might have perished Saturday.

"He wouldn't leave me be. He was going to get me out one way or another," Ms. Johnson said. "I just thank the Lord for Skipper. He's my little hero."

Ward said the cause of the fire is still unknown and that the investigation has been handed off to the Goldsboro Police Department.

But for Ms. Johnson, neither rhyme nor reason would do any good at this point.

"It's just like they say. You never think something like this can happen to you," she said. "And look at it now. It's all gone."