THEODORE, Ala. (WKRG) — A couple remains in the hospital after a fire destroyed their home on Tung Avenue on Sunday evening.
On Sunday evening, Kimberly Smith was driving home from bringing lunch to her grandmother when she turned onto her street and found multiple firetrucks.
“I was just in shock, just in shock,” Smith said.
Smith’s parents, Kay and Andy Vanek, are wheelchair-bound. At the time, they were in the house that they share with Smith.
Theodore Dawes Fire Rescue had responded to the fire and called for backup from Mobile Fire Rescue, Fowl River Volunteer Fire Department and St Elmo Irvington Fire Department.
“I asked the policeman, ‘Did they get out?’ He said ‘Who?'” Smith said. “I said, ‘My mom and my dad.'”
Thanks to neighbor Dan Hornkohl, they had.
Hornkohl was taking a nap when he heard a loud explosion that he said he thinks was an oxygen tank. When he came outside to figure out what the noise was, he saw the flames.
“(I) told my dad to call 911, and I came over here, and the fire was pretty much coming out of the roof,” Hornkohl said.
Due to the Vaneks being wheelchair-bound, the heat of the fire began to melt their tires leaving them trapped. Hornkohl, who had just retired from serving 32 years as a firefighter in Alabaster, helped save both of them from the flames.
“That was divine intervention in my opinion,” Smith said.
Hornkohl had come back to his hometown to visit his parents taking time to reset after a successful career.
“Kinda getting away from everything and found myself right in the middle of it,” Hornkohl said.
However, Hornkohl said that he didn’t save the two; it was the smoke alarm that did.
“I really believe that these people would not be here right now if it was not for their smoke detectors,” Hornkohl said. “Smoke detectors alerted them that their house was on fire. They were able to get to a place that made it easier to find them.”
October is fire prevention month, and he urges people to check the health of their smoke detectors. He also recommends that when you set your clocks back an hour in November to also change your batteries.
The Vanek’s children said that they are grateful that their parents get to see another day.
“We were just lucky, lucky that he was there,” Smith said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.