Man critical after being pulled out in nick of time


Gainesville Fire Rescue firefighters work to extinguish a house fire at 505 SE 15th St. According to GFR Public Information Officer Shawna Traub, the fire was believed to have been caused by a space heater. The man pulled from the house - identified by a resident as Henry Ray - was in critical condition late Monday night at Shands at AGH, according to fire officials.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 12:38 a.m.
An unconscious man was pulled from a burning home in southeast Gainesville, minutes before it was engulfed in flames Monday night in a fire officials blamed, in part, on the cold weather.
A space heater started the blaze, which gutted the one-story, wood-frame house at 505 SE 15th St., said Shawna Traub, a spokeswoman for Gainesville Fire Rescue.
The man pulled from the house - identified by a resident as Henry Ray - was in critical condition late Monday night at Shands at AGH, according to fire officials.
Emergency crews were across the street, responding to a medical call at about 8 p.m. when the fire started.
Russell Howard, 32, who rents the home, said he was sitting on the porch when he smelled the smoke and saw the flames. Howard, who was standing in his socks minutes after escaping the house, said he tried using an extinguisher, but that he couldn't put the flames out.
Howard said he then ran across the street to alert rescue workers that the house was on fire and that there was a man trapped in the rear of the house.
Bill Blair, a firefighter with Gainesville Fire Rescue for 15 years, and Gainesville Police Officer Brett Kikendall, managed to pull the unconscious man out the back door after freeing one of his legs which had gotten caught on the door, Traub said.
Howard identified the man as Henry Ray - another resident of the house.
This was the first time Blair and Kikendall have saved a life, they said.
"He was lucky we were across the street," Blair said. "We got there just in time."
Kikendall said had they gotten to the house just a few minutes later, it would have been too late.
"It feels good to know you saved a life," Kikendall said. "I'm just glad everyone is OK."
"The house was a total loss," Traub said. "There was too much fire damage."
Dozens of neighbors watched as firefighters worked to put the blaze out.
Howard's daughter, Sasha Powell, who lives across the street, said she ran outside when she saw the house on fire. She said she was relieved her father made it out of the house safely.
"All we saw were flames," Powell said, as she stood on the chilly sidewalk.
The fire is still under investigation, Traub said.
More cold expected Traub suggested Monday night's fire should serve as a warning to people as they find ways to heat their homes during this stretch of cold weather.
She said space heaters are particularly dangerous because they can tip over. If they have to be used, she said they must be set at least three feet away from anything combustible.
After temperatures below freezing last night and this morning, temperatures are expected to return to the 20s again tonight, said Marie Trabert, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.
Several counties in North Central Florida, including Alachua, issued hard freeze warnings through 8 a.m. today.
Temperatures dropped to below freezing Monday, bottoming out in the upper 20s. Officials warned of possible hard freezes in colder locations overnight, posing a threat to plants, pipes and animals.
Trabert said that a low of 42 degrees and a high of 66 degrees is the typical average temperature in Gainesville this time of the year.
"It's likely there will be another freeze warning Tuesday night," Trabert said.
With freezing temperatures expected again tonight, Trabert said it is important that people take necessary precautions to protect their plants and animals.
Rob Walls, store manager of Lowe's Home Improvement on Archer Road, said Monday that covering plants with plastic sheeting is one option people can use to protect their gardens from frosty weather.
He added that the sheeting must not touch the leaves and that his store sells wood or PVC pipe which can be used to prop plastic sheeting up enough while still giving plants ample protection. Walls said that frost blankets, coverings made by Dupont that can be draped directly over plants, are an inexpensive and easy option to protect plants with little hassle.
"If you have plants on your patio, you should bring them in, too," Walls said. "You also want to cap off outdoor plumbing fixtures with insulation caps."
Walls said clip-on lights with heat lamps help keep the metal surface of pipes warm so they don't freeze or crack.
Deborah Ball can be reached at 374-5036 or balld@gvillesun.com.

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