Two construction workers who helped rescue an 11-year-old girl from a burning house Thursday morning in the Barberton area said they hoped anyone in their position would stop and do the same.
Timothy Ward, 35, and Corbin Cavagna, 21, both of Vancouver, began their morning at about 7, working as a foreman and a laborer, respectively, for U.S. Construction Inc. They were headed to their job site when they saw light-colored smoke rising in the distance. But when the smoke turned dark, that’s when Ward said he knew it was serious and headed toward it.
As they got closer, Ward saw someone nearby on the phone, who appeared to have called 911, he said. He kept going to 10505 N.E. Maitland Road, where they found a single-story house on fire.
“It was the most surreal feeling I’ve ever felt before in my life that no one was standing outside, which is super unusual for a big fire like that,” Ward said. “So, I quickly just jumped out of my truck and ran and started beating on the door.”
Ward said he shouted to anyone inside, but no one responded. They then knocked on the door of a shop building on the property, where a man eventually came out.
“I’m starting to panic a little bit, and then the dad comes out of the shop, and he’s like, ‘My little girl’s in there,’ ” Ward said. “So immediately, he opened the front door and just a big flame shot out the front door.”
Ward and Cavagna said they thought of their own young family members when they learned the girl was still inside the burning house.
Fire and smoke blocked the door, so the men went to the back sliding door. The girl ran toward them and got outside.
Once the girl was out safely, Cavagna said they backed away and waited for the fire department to arrive.
Crews from the Vancouver Fire Department and Clark County Fire District 6 extinguished the blaze within 15 minutes, according to a Vancouver fire press release. They also rescued a dog from inside the house.
The Red Cross responded to help the displaced family.
When Ward got home at the end of the day and went to shower, he said he noticed bits of burned plastic and metal still on his clothes.
“It was kind of stupid risking my own life, but when he said his little girl was in there, that didn’t matter,” Ward said. “I have a little 4-year-old boy, too, so I mean there would be nothing stopping me either.”
Cavagna said he was motivated to help by his little brother and sister.
“I grew up protecting them, and they are the ones that I would always think about when protecting others,” he said.
Cavagna never imagined rescuing people from a fire would be a part of his work day, he said.
“I’m very grateful that she was saved because I can only imagine the pain of losing a child,” he said. “There’s nothing better than taking care of others. If everybody just kind of took care of each other, then a lot of problems would just kind of disappear.”