BROWNSBURG, Ind - Residents in the Williamsburg Village subdivision say a fast-spreading fire could have turned out much worse if not for the quick reaction of one of their neighbors.
Melba Montgomery says she was starting her drive to work at Maplehurst Bakery just after 6:00a.m. Monday when she saw heavy smoke coming from a home on James Blair Drive. She says she called 911 and then jumped out of her car.
“While I was on the phone with the lady letting her know, that’s when I knocked on the door,” Montgomery said. “And I had to calm down again and let them know ‘Hey, your house is on fire, come on out, please.’”
The homeowner quickly got his two children and their dogs and cats outside to safety before the flames quickly engulfed the entire house.
“Having spoken with the homeowner, it sounds like he was unaware of the fire prior to her knocking on that door,” said Brownsburg Fire Department Captain Ryan Miller. “She definitely played a major role in this fire today in notifying the people involved.”
“As soon as they came out, that was the main concern, them coming out the house,” Montgomery said. “I mean stuff is stuff, you can’t get your family back.”
“If it wasn’t for her, this would have turned out a whole lot different,” said neighbor Wayne Childs. “There would have been lives lost.”
“I think she was an angel,” said property owner Fanus Tesfagabir. “She saved many lives.”
But within minutes, Montgomery and other neighbors were knocking on more doors. The flames from the original fire spread to the house next door.
“The grass in between the houses was on fire,” Miller said. “The fences in between the two houses was on fire. I can’t say for sure if that’s what caused the fire to go from one house to the next.”
Residents in the house next door had to quickly evacuate. Then heat from the two burning homes began to radiate to two more houses on either side. Suddenly, Brownsburg firefighters were dealing with a three-alarm fire involving four homes.
“Vinyl siding does melt relatively easily and it is a petroleum based product, which certainly did not help us in this cause today,” Miller said.
Aside from Brownsburg Fire Department, responding agencies included members of the Wayne Township Fire Department, Pike Township Fire Department, Speedway Fire Department, Avon Fire Department, Danville Fire Department, and the Indianapolis Fire Department Rehab Support Unit.
The RSU assisted firefighters who were coping with the already warm conditions of the day.
“The RSU company left us plenty of drinks,” Miller said. “We’re going to try to keep our crews hydrated, we’re going to rotate them out as needed.”
Although witnesses said the original fire appeared to start in the garage of the home, investigators have not pinpointed the cause or origin of the fire. One house was deemed a total loss, the house next door sustained heavy damage. The family in a third house is also displaced because utilities to the home had to be turned off. The fourth home remains livable with cosmetic damage on the side wall, Miller said.
While the incident remains under investigation, Montgomery later learned there were no injuries to people or pets.
“I’m happy! I’m freaking out,” she said. “I’m so happy they got out the house.”