Columbia County firefighters are telling their story of how they saved an 82-year-old woman during the deadly fire at Marshall Square Retirement Resort in Evans, Georgia that started Tuesday morning.
The 4 firemen rescued the Rhetta Cadle seven hours after the fire started. They went into the building to save the woman, not knowing what they would find.
Cadle had locked herself in her bathroom during the fire. She said the building started to come down around her and she thought it was her time to go, but thanks to some brave firefighters, she made it out alive.
“Biggest fire I’ve ever seen and, hopefully, biggest fire I’ll ever see again,” said Captain Chris Wahman, of Columbia County Fire Rescue. “As soon as I stepped out of my truck, man, just the heat was intense from several hundred feet away.”
The firefighters showed up at different times Tuesday morning, but for the four of the firemen, the Marshall Square Retirement Resort fire was the largest structure fire they have ever seen. Seven hours after the fire got started, the four men were sent in to look for two residents.
“The training that we go through, throughout the year, will kick in and prepare you to do what you have to do when you get in there,”
The four firefighters went in together, into the most damaged and inaccessible part of the building. That’s when they heard something.
“We heard what I thought was a cat. It was a real faint noise. We all just stopped and said, ‘did you hear that? Did you hear that?’ And obviously, we all heard something. And, I think Lieutenant Ganther called out, ‘this is the fire department,’ and there was a crisp, clear, distinct, ‘help’.” Metzler said.
The voice was Cadle. Though it was difficult, because of the damage, the four men were able to get into her room. Once inside, she told them, “I’m glad to see you.”
“She seemed like a very strong lady. She knew how to take care of herself. She had wet towels over her,” Capt. Wahman said.
From there, the four men handed her off to another group of firefighters, who took her to safety.
“She wasn’t in there alone. She had a hand over her the entire time,” Metzler said.
The four men call her survival a miracle, and say they hope they get a chance to see the 82-year-old again.
“I think I would give her a big hug. I would say, ‘glad to see you,’ just like she said to us,” Captain Wahman said.
“Really, just like she said to us. Glad to see you and I’d give her a big hug,” Metzler said.
The four firefighters we spoke with Thursday was also the same group that recovered the body of 91-year-old Dorothy Carpenter. They said her room was across the hallway from Cadle’s.