Teen saves couple from fire
By Gary Popp
Published in News on February 23, 2011 1:46 PM
The first time Jonathan Wise, left, met Dominique Rivers, the 16-year-old saved his life, Wise said. Here, the two meet again at the site on Beaver Street where Wise's home was destroyed by fire Sunday.
Jonathan Wise was at home with his girlfriend, Paula Locklear, on Sunday morning, watching TV.
Dominique Rivers, 16, was across the other side of the Beaver Street cul de sac in the Carraway Creek neighborhood, baby-sitting his nephew at his brother's house.
The two men had never met, but that was about to change in a dramatic way.
About 10:30 a.m., Rivers looked out his window and saw that Wise's yard was on fire. He dashed to Wise's home and was out of breath when he reached the front door.
"I don't like seeing no one in trouble, so I went over there," Rivers said.
Wise, 48, was shocked to hear a fire was creeping through his back yard toward his home. The cause of the fire was not immediately determined, but it started outdoors, fire investigators said.
"When I got to the back, I could see that my whole yard was already burnt and the fire was beginning to beat against the trailer," Wise said.
Pulling off his shirt, Wise started trying to beat the fire down. Because he was still barefoot, he couldn't stomp on the flames.
Meanwhile, Rivers found a 5-gallon bucket filled with water left after someone had washed a car. But it was of little use against the spreading flames. According to Wise, it took only a couple more minutes for the fire to reach the mobile home.
The fire had started in Wise's neighbor's yard and the wind had carried it across the property line.
Wise then ran to his get his garden hose to fight the fire but found that the neighbor had attached it to a second hose and was trying to put out the grass fire. When Wise yelled at him to turn the water on his home, he refused.
Angry and scared, Wise then turned back to his home, which was quickly becoming engulfed in flames.
His girlfriend had since stepped outside but was trying to get back inside to get her purse.
"I didn't want her to go, but she said she knew exactly where it was," Wise said. Together, they stepped a couple of feet into the burning home and grabbed the purse. Then, with the flames growing, Wise realized it was likely too late to save the home. So he backed his car out of the driveway to save it.
It would be the only thing he would be able to save. The fire not only consumed his home, but destroyed his shed and damaged the home of another next-door neighbor as well.
Wise credited Rivers with saving both him and Ms. Locklear.
"It would have been a lot different, if he hadn't knocked on that door," Wise said. I don't know how severe, but it would have been different."
After the fire trucks left the scene, Wise sought out Rivers to thank him for his fast action. It took him a while to find out where the youth lived, but he said it was important for him to thank Rivers in person.
"He said he wanted to thank me for coming and knocking on his door because if I didn't he would probably have been burnt up. I was surprised, I didn't think he would come by and thank me," Rivers said.
"He was brave. Grown men next door didn't even come to help," Wise noted. "There are not a whole lot of people like him."
With his home destroyed, Wise said he is trying to remain positive. He said he feels both frustration at what happened and appreciation for the fact that neither he nor his girlfriend were hurt.
"It made me so mad to watch my stuff burn. I want a home back," Wise said
After the fire, he went through the ashes, looking for anything that might have survived the flames. He found some old black and white photographs of his father and himself that were protected by a heavy dresser that had fallen over them.
Wise said that as he searched through the charred remains, a man he didn't know approached him and handed him a $100 bill.
He took the money gratefully, but said it made him feel bad.
"I am not the kind of person that asks anyone for anything," he said.
Although he is still frustrated over the loss, Wise said he realizes it could have been much worse.
"I am trying to keep my spirits up. I still got a job, my health and friends," he said.
Wise said he has received support from family, friends and even complete strangers, who want to help. The Red Cross also has been very helpful, he said, helping with food, clothing and putting him up in a hotel for a few days, until he can find another place to stay.
But the person for whom he feels the most gratitude is still Rivers.
"I really think he saved our lives," Wise said. "Miracles happen."