Fire snuffed out quickly thanks to Good Samaritians
Holton family grateful for passersby

Wanda English Burnett

The story of two Holton families could have been much different if not for an alert motorist who saw a flicker in a window and stopped to check it out.

A North Vernon couple, David and Linda Heilman, were on their way home in the early morning hours on Friday, February 12, when they notice a flicker in a window at a mobile home just west of the Michigan Road and US 50 intersection.

“I told my wife something was wrong, to call 911,” noted David, as he pulled into the driveway where the home was located. There were no vehicles in the drive, so he wasn’t sure if anyone was home or not.

The Heilmans would soon find there were five people inside the mobile home, four of them children.
David opened the door to find a woman down on one knee gasping for air. “The smoke was thick in the kitchen where she was,” he said.

In the meantime, Linda had called for help and was now helping her husband to get the children, one-by-one out of the home. “We put them in our vehicle, so they would be warm,” Linda noted. David said the gauge on their vehicle read two degrees. “It was definitely cold that night,” he noted.

Amanda Woodward was the woman down on the floor. She said she smelled smoke, got up to check it out, and found the kitchen range was on fire. She put flour and salt on it, but said then she panicked and threw some water on it. The water and grease meshed together to make a slick mess and she fell as she tried to get away from the stove and get the children out.

Woodward rents the mobile home from Mark Pickett, along with her cousin Tasha Lagle, and between the two they have five children. Tasha was at the hospital with her youngest son, Braxton, who is only three months old, when the incident occurred. “We’re just having a streak of bad luck,” Tasha noted on Friday, when she came home to find out what had happened. She agreed with Amanda, that their luck could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the Heilmans.

Amanda’s hair was singed, but no one was hurt and the fire was quickly snuffed out by David. “If it wasn’t for them (the Heilmans) I don’t know what I would have done,” Amanda told the Osgood Journal.

“The Lord puts us right where we belong,” David told the Osgood Journal as he was being thanked for his quick actions. He noted that they usually wouldn’t be out so late, it was after 1:00 a.m. There are no close neighbors where the mobile home is located and Tasha had her cell phone with her at the hospital that night. The family also didn’t have a vehicle. They were very grateful for the Heilmans helping hands that night.

The Heilmans were quick to praise the Holton Volunteer Fire Department. “It was amazing how quickly they responded,” David noted. He said he watched as they took a big fan and got the smoke out of the home and carried out their duties in a professional manner. The family was able to get back inside the home in a short time.

A firefighter for the department said he felt the outcome would have been much different if the Heilmans hadn’t responded when and how they did. He felt that the lives of those inside were saved by the quick and decisive actions of the North Vernon couple.

While the fire started in the vicinity of the kitchen range, the exact cause was not determined by press time, according to Holton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tony Franklin.

Linda Heilman said she was proud of the children, who remained calm throughout the ordeal. “They are very well mannered,” she told the Osgood Journal. They made fast friends with her as they huddled in the Heilman’s vehicle for warmth and safety that night.

Andrew, a second grader at South Ripley Elementary School, said he was scared, but knew everything was going to be all right.

Adults pictured from left are David and wife, Linda Heilman of North Vernon, who were Good Samaritians and helped Amanda Woodward, who is holding her son, Aden, 2. Another son of Amanda's, Andrew, is standing with David. Linda is holding Leeann, 2, who is the daugher of Tasha Lagle, a co-tenant, who was not at home at the time of the fire. Amanda was caring for another relative, Sierra, who is 5, who was in the trailer the night of the fire, but not pictured. They are standing in front of the kitchen stove where the fire started.