Good Samaritan saves family from fire

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

HINESVILLE, GA (WTOC) - A fire rips through a Hinesville apartment building, leaving nearly a dozen people looking for a new place to live, but one man is grateful for how this all ended. Someone woke him up just in time to get his 9-month-old son out of the burning apartment.

The fired happened at Stewart Pines Apartments. "We woke up to our neighbor knocking on the door at 2 a.m.," said James Berry. "She yelled at me that the house was on fire and my wife and I ran to get our son."

That neighbor was Denisse Vega. Before Monday, Berry only knew Vega as the woman who took his parking spot one day, now he knows her as the woman who saved his family's lives.

Berry's smoke detectors hadn't gone off yet. He, his wife who's five months pregnant, and their 9-month-old son were all asleep. Vega just happened to be outside and saw the flames. Her quick response saved lives. "I knew there was a baby in there," Vega said. "I went inside to try to help them with the baby, take bags with diapers and stuff out. It was already in the living room."

The fire was spreading quickly through the house. If Vega had not knocked on Berry's door when she did, Berry's family may not have made it. "By the time the fire alarms came on the fire was already past my son's room," Berry said. "We would have either lost our son, or one of us would have lost our lives trying to get to him."

Berry lost everything. The hallway leading to the living room is completely charred; the roof on his apartment is gone. All that's left is a ceiling fan hanging from exposed beams. The fire just ripped through the building so fast.

"It was instrumental getting these people out," said Capt. Kris Johanson, with Hinesville Fire Dept. about Vega's efforts to help her neighbors. "We could have had a much worse tragedy than what we had this morning."

But they didn't, thanks to Vega who put her own life in jeopardy to help her neighbors. Berry said he is very grateful to his neighbor.

Four apartments were damaged in the fire. There were 13 people were displaced.

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