Capt. Brian Dawson of the Lexington Fire Department had just gotten off work Saturday morning when he found himself rescuing a woman from inside her burning home.
The woman, who lives on Katie Court, had been removing nail polish with acetone, and she lit a candle, causing the fire to erupt just before 11 a.m., Dawson said.
Dawson said he was outside doing some yard work when he saw "a big black column of smoke" in the neighborhood.
"I immediately jumped in my truck," he said.
He drove to the area where he thought the smoke was coming from and then saw that the fire was actually one street over. So Dawson said he left his truck "running in the middle of the road and jumped over a couple of fences to get to the house."
The flames' heat had caused glass doors in the back of the house to shatter, and "there was heavy fire blowing out the back of the living room onto the porch," he said.
An off-duty corrections officer who lives a few doors down from the home was using a garden hose to try to contain the fire, so Dawson said he ran around to the front of the house, where he found the woman who lived there.
After she confirmed that no one was inside and the fire department had been called, Dawson said he started to go back to help the corrections officer.
But as he did, Dawson said he glimpsed the woman running back into the burning home.
"She disappeared into the smoke," he said. "I started yelling. I was saying 'Get out of the house! Get out of the house!'"
With no protective gear, Dawson ran inside after her.
He said the home was filled with smoke.
"She got about 5 feet into the house and disappeared," he said.
But Dawson, who has been with the fire department for 19 years, said it did not take him long to find the woman.
"We're trained to look at the house from the outside and guess where everything's located," he said.
Dawson said he found the woman standing in the midst of the smoke, about 20 feet inside the front door. He said he "grabbed her by the back," and together they made their way back outside.
He said the woman later said she "just wanted to put out the fire."
"She wasn't in her right frame of mind," he said.
Dawson said that while "any other fire department off-duty person would've done the same thing," the incident serves as an important reminder about safety.
"Most of the fire victims that die in fires die of smoke inhalation. Just a few quick breaths of that toxic smoke is enough to incapacitate you where you don't think clearly," he said. "When you get out of the house, stay out of the house."
Fire Major Bill Saunooke and other fire department units arrived and extinguished the fire, according to a news release from the fire department.
Dawson said the corrections officer was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, and the woman, who sustained burns to her hands, was taken to the hospital.
"There was a lot of damage to the home," Saunooke said in the release. "Things might have gone differently if Captain Dawson and the other neighbors hadn't become involved."