Roanoke Rapids, N.C. — Everything happens for a reason. So says Dylan Clark.
Clark, Pete King and Lt. Eddie Porter, firefighters for the Gaston Fire Department, were out driving last Thursday afternoon in Roanoke Rapids when they spotted smoke coming from a nearby home.
The three weren't supposed to be in the area near Gray and West Tenth streets – they were just looking for a vending machine to get something to drink.
With no fire truck or protective gear, the three sprang into action after calling 911 when they saw through a window a mother and her young child were trapped inside.
"We didn't have the equipment, but we knew there was somebody inside, and we needed to try to do what we needed to do," King said Thursday.
Instinct kicked in.
"We all just got out and did what had to be done," Clark said.
The three ran to the back of the house, and Clark, using railing on the side of the house for leverage, kicked open the back door.
Crystal Parker and her 2-year-old daughter ran out as the three firefighters and a neighbor ran inside to rescue the family dog and to be sure no one else was inside.
By the time they were finished, they knew it was time to go.
"I saw smoke shooting out of the electrical outlet and some coming through the floor," Clark said. "I was like, 'We need to get out of here.'"
Fire investigators still aren't sure what caused the fire. The house was destroyed, but Parker says she and her husband plan to rebuild.
She and her daughter had been asleep when the fire started and couldn't get out of the front door. They had been trying to get out of the back door when the three off-duty firefighters came to the rescue.
"I didn't lose anything," she said. "I got what I needed out of that house, and that was my daughter. If it hadn't been for those guys, then who knows?"