Nekia Taylor had just moved into her Lenox Pointe apartment when it caught fire Sunday.
She had dropped off her rent money and some papers and was about to take some trash down to the trash compactor.
“When I came out of the bathroom to the front room, I could see, like, smoke and stuff, like, before I opened the door,” the 32-year-old said by telephone Friday. “I grabbed my puppy and I went to a back room and called 911 and that’s all I remember.”
The 32-year-old former Marine field radio operator was dramatically rescued by Warner Robins firefighters who responded to the 2 p.m. fire.
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Unconscious but breathing, Taylor was pulled out of a window of the second-story apartment and carried to safety by firefighters.
“I just wanted to tell them thank you for my life,” Taylor said as her voice broke with emotion. “I couldn’t make it out of there.
“I remember when I was on the phone with dispatch I was just telling them … Don’t let me die in there. Don’t let me die in there.”
She was whisked away in an ambulance and airlifted to an Augusta burn center where she was treated for smoke inhalation.
Taylor is now back in Warner Robins, being helped by the American Red Cross. She’s continuing to recover. She still has a little trouble breathing and her throat is sore, which makes it difficult to talk.
She’s also grieving the loss of her puppy, Chase, who perished. Though firefighters used a special oxygen mask for dogs in an effort to save him, he succumbed at the scene, mostly likely to smoke inhalation.
Taylor said she has no idea what could have started the fire. She wasn’t cooking or doing anything such as that in the apartment. She thinks the fire started outside of the apartment.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, said Warner Robins Fire Chief Ross Moulton. He said his fire investigators are working with the apartment complex’s insurance fire investigator.
About half of the attic of Building 2700 where Taylor lived was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, Moulton said. Flames could also be seen shooting from her apartment when firefighters broke in to save her.
“If they hadn’t went in and got her, she definitely would not be alive today,” Moulton said.
Moulton said he expects to honor firefighters involved in the lifesaving rescue with the department’s Valor Award.
Steve Rigby, owner of the apartment complex, marveled at the bravery of the firefighters, who didn’t hesitate to enter the burning apartment to save Taylor.
“You should have seen them ... That one unit was on fire, and they just climbed on that ladder and went in that window. It’s crazy. It’s just amazing what those guys do for a living. I saw them coming out the window with (Taylor),” Rigby said.
Rigby said he expects the apartment building, one of 300 in the complex, will have to be rebuilt. He said the complex has been in operation for nearly nine years.
The recent fire marks the fourth fire in the complex’s history. Firefighters put out a kitchen fire in October, and another fire about four or five years ago that was attributed to a cigarette discarded in a trash bag, Rigby said.
Firefighters also have battled in the past a brush fire at the complex caused by children playing with cigarette lighters, he said.
“One fire’s too many,” Rigby said.