“I just thank the Lord for his courage and his quick thinking and reaction,” said Vickey McKie, who watched her son, Felande Ross, pull the child from the house at 3620 Meadowgrove Drive around 3 a.m.
A man inside the home did not make it out alive, but Ross said it was not for a lack of trying.
Richmond County Deputy Coroner Johnny McDonald said the fire department was called at 2:47 a.m. after two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, were awakened by a fire alarm and ran to Ross’ home across the street for help.
When Ross stepped into the street, no one was around, but smoke was coming from the home.
“When I heard there was a child inside, I started pulling the (window) screen off,” he said.
The house was already full of smoke when Ross entered through a window. He left and re-entered the home several times, yelling for the child and her father. Although he could hear the girl, he said he was walking blind.
A man whom neighbors identified as Miller Jenkins answered Ross’ calls for help and climbed in through the window to help Ross pull the girl to safety.
McKie said Jenkins is not from the area and disappeared shortly after the child was recovered.
“I’ve never seen him before,” she said. “I just call him an angel.”
After the child was safe, Ross said, he re-entered the home in a final effort to help the child’s father, but he left when the roof started caving in and he tried to attack the fire from the outside with a water hose.
“He is a witness and a true-life hero,” McDonald said of Ross.
Firefighters arrived and found the body of an unidentified black man in the kitchen.
“It appears he was cooking something,” McDonald said. “The fire appears to have originated in the kitchen; more specifically, on the stove.”
The coroner’s office is awaiting medical and dental records to identify the body. Neighbors identified the man as Saxon Washington.
McKie said she knew the family well.
“All of us are really close,” she said. “He loved his children.”
McKie said Washington’s wife was at work when the fire began.