‘It means the world to me’: 80-year-old woman rescued from Norfolk house fire by neighbors

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Good Samaritan rescued an 80-year-old woman from her house before it became engulfed in flames in Norfolk’s Lindenwood neighborhood on Christmas morning.

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Witnesses say the house fire started sometime before 8:05 a.m. in the 800 block of east 26th Street, near Church Street. It was around that time that a man, who happened to be driving by, saw the fire.

He hopped out of his vehicle and ran to the front door. He was met by Derrick Vaughan, who lives in a neighboring home. Vaughan says he was about to start opening Christmas gifts with his family when his son saw the fire.

“I mean it it was definitely scary,” said Vaughan. “I mean immediately start praying and just sprung into action. You know, it’s the neighbor. So we wanted to make sure that she was safe.”

After banging on the front door, the men ran inside and that’s where they found the woman.

“It was a lot, a lot of smoke, and the fire was heavy on one side of her porch. Not in front of her door, but on the far right side it was heavy fire. It was a little scary and then feeling the adreneline pushing and pumping real quick. I mean it really wasn’t no time to think. I just want to help and that’s what I did.”

The men helped the woman to safety – none of which were injured.

The family of the woman rescued tells 10 On Your Side her name is Helen Willice.

Her son, Michael, is extremely grateful to the men.

“I want to thank them for saving my mother,” Michael said. “It means the world to me. She’s everything to me.”

He was able to reconnect with Vaughan following the rescue but hopes the second good samaritan somehow hears his thank you as well.

“I would just give him a hug. Just wish him a Merry Christmas.”

Norfolk Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Stephanie Ramsey says the home was severely damaged. The Willice family lived there for more than forty years.

“I mean she’s part of the city civil league for Villa Heights. She’s really just in her community a lot. Christmas time, feeding people, she does it all.

Several crews from Virginia Beach and Norfolk were called to the scene to help, however, strong winds interfered with the process of putting out the fire.

“This type of construction makes it really easy for fire to travel in the walls,” said Battalion Chief Stephanie Ramsey. “The balloon frame construction and the wind really heavily contributed to the spread of this fire.”

The fire was deemed to be under control around 10:20 a.m.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

10 On Your Side is working to learn more.

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