Police officer rescues woman from burning house
Published: August 14, 2007 | 6608th good news item since 2003
SYLACAUGA — Donna Evans thought she could put out what started as a small fire in her daughter’s bedroom, but the fire quickly escalated and she was trapped.
Evans was unable to escape the smoke and fire, until police officer Stephen Ledbetter made it to the bedroom and led her out of her home at 213 Lee Drive early the morning of June 5.
Ledbetter was several blocks over from the home when he heard the call on his patrol car radio about the fire.
When he arrived at the end of Lee Street, he could see an orange glow coming from a window in the house.
As he got to the house, he saw a young woman outside with a garden hose she was trying to put through the window.
“I asked her if anyone else was inside the home. She told me her mother was,” Ledbetter said.
He went through the front door to the bedroom.
“There was smoke everywhere. I had to get down lower than the smoke. When I got to the bedroom, I saw the mother. I saw fire all around her and smoke. I told her to get out of the house. I helped her make it to the front porch,” Ledbetter said.
Evans said she went to bed about 30 minutes before the fire started, which was shortly after 1:30 a.m.
“My daughter left a candle burning in her bedroom. Somehow the candle got knocked over and a pillow caught fire. My daughter woke up and came to my bedroom to tell me there was a fire,” Evans said.
She tried to put out the fire with a pot of water, then attempted to beat it out. It just got worse.
Her daughter had called 911, but in the meantime she went outside to get a hose and was putting it through the window when Ledbetter arrived.
“He came to the bedroom and told me to get out. I said, ‘I can’t find out,’” Evans said. “He helped me get to the porch. I could hear officer Donnie Landers outside, too.”
Evans suffered smoke inhalation, while her daughter, Jennifer, had some burns, including on her feet where she stepped on her purse that was on fire.
“It was an awful feeling. My daughter, who is a heavy sleeper, woke up prior to the fire getting out of hand. That was an act of God,” Evans said.
The mother and daughter stayed most of the day at Coosa Valley Medical Center, where they were taken by Sylacauga Ambulance Service.
Evans, who works for a local hospice, worked many years in the emergency room at the hospital. She knows several police officers who worked the late shift through the years, including Landers. She also knew Lt. Chuck Baker, one of the firefighters on the scene in the early morning hours of June 5.
“Chuck told me I had a license to be a nurse, but not a firefighter,” she said.
Fire Chief Tommy Abrams said the call about the house fire came into the Fire Department at 1:43 a.m. Baker was the supervisor on duty at the time of the fire. The first truck arrived at the scene at 1:46 a.m.
“Seven firefighters responded to the fire. Mrs. Evans and her daughter did receive some injuries. The bedroom sustained heavy damage and the house had heavy smoke and some moderate damage,” he said.
“It is my understanding officer Ledbetter entered the residence that was filled with smoke and fire, escorting Mrs. Evans out of the house. The ambulance service took her and her daughter to the hospital,” Abrams said.
Evans rents the house from Gail Smith, according to the Fire Department report, Abrams said.
Evans said Ledbetter paid her a visit at the hospital to check on her.
Police Chief Louis Zook said he will recommend Ledbetter for special recognition for his act of bravery in leading Evans to safety.
Ledbetter has been an officer with the Sylacauga Police Department for less than two years.