THEODORE, Ala. (WKRG) — A couple remains in the hospital after a fire destroyed their home on Tung Avenue on Sunday evening.
Theodore Dawes Fire Rescue responded to the fire and called for backup from Mobile Fire Rescue, Fowl River Volunteer Fire Department and St Elmo Irvington Fire Department.
Kimberly Smith is the daughter of Kay and Andy Vanek. She has lived in the front part of the home for the past nine years. She said her parents lived in the back portion of the home, but this is also the home she grew up in.
On Sunday evening, she was driving home from bringing lunch to her grandmother. When she turned onto her street, she found multiple firetrucks.
“I was just in shock, just in shock,” Smith said.
Smith’s parents are wheelchair-bound. At the time, they were in the house.
“I asked the policeman, ‘Did they get out?’ He said ‘Who?'” Smith said. “I said, ‘My mom and my dad.'”
The Vaneks got out safely with the help of a neighbor.
Dan 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.
“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 helped save both of them from the flames.
Smith said that her mother was still inside of the house while her father was on the ramp outside.
“He actually saved my mom,” Smith said.
A moment of right person at the right time being that Hornkohl just retired from serving 32 years as a firefighter in Alabaster.
“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.
What seems like a moment of bravery to the average person, 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 that people make sure 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 couple’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.