It was around 7 p.m. June 10 when Jim Massey felt the need to be in his backyard enjoying an early summer evening.
“I usually don’t sit outside in the evening,” Massey said. “It was just a pretty nice evening. I thought, ‘I’ll just sit outside.’”
But when Massey went around the corner of his home, he noticed flames racing up the side of his next door neighbor’s house, located at 505 Main St. in Alhambra.
“My first response was, ‘Just take action,’” Massey said. “I’ve been a firefighter before, and I know a lot of firefighters, so the first response is get the people out and then worry about the house.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Massey’s training during his days firefighting in New Douglas took over. First, he called 911. Then he ran to his neighbor’s house. He banged on the front door as loud as he could.
“They opened it, and I yelled, ‘Your house is on fire!’” Massey said.
It took him less than a minute to help his neighbor wake her little girl from a nap and get two dogs and a cat out of the home.
“I had to take the cat out, twice,” Massey said. “He kept running back in.”
When everyone was out, Massey ran around the side of the house to grab the hose in an attempt to keep the fire at bay until the fire department showed up. However, when he got a hold of the hose, he saw that the heat had melted it in half. Utilizing the part of the hose left intact, Massey strained to reach around the corner to spray he could.
“I probably saved it, because it was starting to get pretty good,” Massey said.
It was not until after the fire was put out that Massey learned he could have been in mortal danger for being that close to the fire, because his neighbor keeps his propane tanks and barbecue grill in that particular corner.
“I didn’t know that,” Massey said. “That could have been real scary.”
The Alhambra Fire Department Chief Gary Boda said the exact cause of the first was still undetermined, but it started on the northwest corner of the house and traveled up and into the attic, right where the little girl would have been sleeping. Massey said that the firefighters told him after they were done putting out the fire, part of the ceiling collapsed on top of the girl’s bed.
“I’m just glad I could help them and nobody got hurt,” Massey said.