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Deputy pulls woman from Baldwin County fire

Hang-up calls to 911 are usually no big deal, but a Baldwin County woman is alive because sheriff’s deputies responded to one Monday.

Dispatcher James Bohannon received the hang-up call about 4:27 p.m., but Deputy Josh Mays responded anyway. When he got to the residence at 126 Benson Adams Road, he saw smoke coming from the windows.

When he checked to see if anyone was inside, Mays quickly got confirmation.

“When you hear screams for help, that sends off an alert bell,” he said.

Patsy Smith, 72, was inside, and Mays immediately began to try to enter the home. Three times he went in from different angles but was unable to reach Smith because of the fire.

“The fire and the heat and the smoke was too much to bear,” he said.

That’s when Baldwin County sheriff’s Lt. Lee Williamson arrived. He had a standard gas mask in his car -- not a firefighter’s mask -- and attempted to save Smith. But he wasn’t able to get to her. Mays gave it another shot, this time using Williamson’s mask.

“I laid down and crawled as fast as I could,” Mays said, adding that Smith was covered by debris when he reached her. “The kitchen chairs were all on top of her. ... I pulled her to my chest and drug her as fast as I could out of the residence.”

Mays said Smith expressed her gratitude but was still severely burned all over her torso, arms and legs. Her hair had also caught fire.

Sheriff Bill Massee wasn’t on the scene but was told that Smith had “maybe two minutes left” before she would have perished in the blaze. Smith is in stable condition at the Burn Center at Doctors Hospital of Augusta, Mays said.

“We’re just very pleased everything worked out like it did, and the lady was saved,” Massee said.

Williamson described his fellow officer as “a hero” after the incident.

“It makes you real proud,” he said. “I had no doubt that Josh would do it.”

Fire Chief Troy Reynolds said the fire had been contained to the kitchen, where it likely started on the stove. That’s no small feat considering the fire department was about eight minutes behind the deputies because the call was a hang-up.

The home is on the eastern side of Baldwin County, well away from both agencies, which made the situation even more urgent once Mays got there.

“It could have been a very different outcome if they hadn’t intervened,” Reynolds said.

As for Mays, he said he would not delay if he faced a similar situation.

“I’d do it again,” he said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.

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