Off-Duty Firefighter Saves Neighbors From Fire

Posted at 5:29 PM, May 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-29 18:52:07-04

A Cookeville firefighter has been praised as a hero after saving his neighbors from a fire that erupted when he was off-duty. 

"Just doing what I've been trained to do," Toby Lee of the Cookeville Fire Department said on Sunday. "I think anybody in their right mind would try to do the same thing. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time." 

According to Lee, he had just returned from the overnight shift at work and was mowing his lawn along Nashville Highway just outside of Baxter on Saturday morning when he saw flames coming from a bush next to his neighbors house, catching the house on fire. That's when Lee went into firefighting mode.

"First instinct is try to get somebody out if they're in there," Lee explained. 

Lee knew his 89-year-old neighbor spent a lot of time at home, so he ran up to the front door and knocked, but he got no response.

Lee then asked a passer by to call 911 as he ran to the back of the house to see if he could make contact with his neighbor.

"I could hear her in there, kind of panicking and yelling," Lee recalled.

The back door to the home was locked, so Lee decided to break down the door to gain entry. 

"That was the only option I had once I heard her screaming. I was like, 'I'm getting in there one way or another,'" Lee said. 

After kicking the back door open, Lee found his 89-year-old neighbor and her niece inside of the home.

"I told them, 'Your house is on fire. We need to get out of here as quick as we can,'" Lee said.

Once Lee got the two out of the home safely, the fire truck arrived, and Lee started working with the other firefighters that arrived, as well as one of his friends, to extinguish the fire and keep it from spreading to the rest of the home.

"They were grateful that we were able to get there in time and hopefully save most of their house and definitely save their lives, too," Lee said of his neighbors' reactions. 

Luckily no one in the fire was injured. At this time, the cause of the fire remained under investigation.