Originally created 06/04/99

All in a day's work

Twelve-year-old Zachary Williams said he was scared, but he barged into a burning house anyway to save the life of his 85-year-old neighbor.

At about 5 p.m. Thursday, Zachary looked out his front window and saw flames peeking through the doorway of his neighbor's home on Leona Street.

Ronald N. Hewitt, 62, and his son, Nicholas Hewitt, 22, who live down the street, also saw the fire. They rushed over and watered down the front of the house with a garden hose, which they hooked up to a washing machine outlet in the backyard.

Zachary hooked up his own hose to the outlet and began spraying the back of the home.

His brother, Michael Thomas, 14, ran over to help. Nobody knew that inside the home, White Sapp was laying on her kitchen floor, smoke and flames surrounding her.

"I hoped everybody was out of the house, but I kept calling the lady's name," Zachary said. `I tried to open the back door, but the glass on the screen door broke. I jumped back. But then I opened the door with a stick, and saw the lady on the floor."

"I started screaming, `There's a lady in there! There's a lady in there!"' Zachary said.

The Hewitts ran to the back of the home and helped Zachary drag Mrs. Sapp out of the burning house.

The flames in the kitchen were only two to three feet away from the rescuers, and the smoke was so thick the only light to see by was coming from the open back door, Nicholas Hewitt said.

"I could feel the heat. I could barely breathe," he said.

"I didn't think she was in there," his father said. "We were just trying to keep the fire from spreading to the other houses. If it wasn't for Zachary, she probably still would be in there this moment. I want to give all the credit to him."

"I was surprised by how cool (Zachary) was. He kept his head," Nicholas Hewitt said. "He's the one who really saved her."

"I was scared. I was just hoping she was still breathing," Zachary said.

The three rescuers said Mrs. Sapp suffered burns on both of her arms. The Hewitts said she was conscious and coughing after they pulled her out.

Mrs. Sapp was taken to the Columbia-Augusta Medical Center at the Joseph M. Stills Burn Center. The hospital wouldn't release a condition report.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, but it may have started from an electrical short in the air conditioning unit, said Battalion Chief John Clark of the Richmond County Fire Department.

Much of the fire was concentrated in the living room in the front of the house, where the air conditioning unit was, Battalion Chief Clark said. But the flames moved into the kitchen and damaged the ceiling of the home.

After it was all over, Zachary and Michael stood in their own yard watching firefighters douse the last of the flames. Their father, Wayne Beard, had plenty of hugs for his two sons. Michael had called his father at work when he saw the fire.

"I'm very proud of them," Mr. Beard said. "I think they're very much heroes. I have a special treat for them."

Jessica Rinck can be reached at (706) 823-3225 or jessica.rinck@augustachronicle.com


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