Scott Woodruff, owner of Majestic Limousine Service and his passenger are heroes.
On the way to the airport, Woodruff and his passenger, Jim Atkinson, roused a Des Moines family from a sound sleep Monday morning as fire and smoke was spreading through their house.
Troy Leyda, Rhonda Clark-Leyda and their 2-year-old, Mary Grace, escaped without injury - and firefighters rescued their Christmas presents.
?I think they saved our lives,? Clark-Leyda said of the men who were driving by. ?We woke up to the dog barking and someone pounding fiercely on our door. The house was filling up with smoke.?
The fire, apparently started by an electric Christmas candle falling from a window ledge in an attic dormer, was spotted by.
?I just saw it peripherally,? Woodruff said. ?It was a little after 5 a.m. It was dark out and we were headed for the airport. It was an orange glow. I thought it almost looked fake. I said, ?Jim, look at that.??
Woodruff pulled over and took out his cell phone. He called 911 while Atkinson sprinted to the door.
Woodruff then went to the side door and began pounding. Atkinson put his shoulder to the door to see if he could bash it open. Suddenly a dog yelped inside as if it had been startled.
?A woman finally came to the door with a baby in her arms,? Woodruff said. ?We told her the house was on fire.?
Atkinson said that flames two or three feet high were coming out of an attic window when they first arrived. A few minutes later, flames were eight to 10 feet high and coming out of another window. ?It was happening in a hurry,? Atkinson said.
Des Moines Fire Investigator Brad Fousek estimated damage to the 76-year-old single-story house at approximately $40,000. He said the vibration of traffic passing by the house might have knocked the candle off the edge of the ledge
Woodruff continued on to the airport, and Atkinson caught his flight.
For more on this story, check out the February issue of LCT.