A couple from Illinois will forever be grateful to one Marshall Helm for saving their lives. While their house was engulfed in flames, the 70-year-old man jumped in with no hesitation to rescue his neighbors from the raging fire.
On October 21, at around 7:30 am, Marshall was dropping off his granddaughter at the bus stop when he saw the bus driver trying to tell him something. “Bus driver hung out the door and tried to get my attention and he said ‘fire, fire, fire.’ And I looked over here and sure enough, I saw a fire coming through that window,” Marshall told KMOV.
The veteran, who is also currently battling cancer, realized that the flames had engulfed the house of his neighbors, Gary and Kathy Benjamin.
The fire, which had started in the neighbor’s garage is suspected to have been caused by a fallen lamp that was meant to keep chicks warm. Seeing the fire, Marshall ran up to the burning house and made his way to the garage door, which he pushed open to find flames sweeping across a wall.
Without a second thought, Marshall used whatever space was left for him to get past the flames and rush inside.
“I was hollering ‘fire, fire, you got to get out of here. Anybody in here.’ And I kept repeating, ‘is anybody in here,'” recalled Marshall.
At the time, Gary and Kathy were still asleep while parts of their house and their possessions were being burned down. They were jolted awake when they heard shouts from the former Vietnam-era veteran and B-29 mechanic.
“Oh my God, I didn’t know what was happening,” recalled Kathy after she and her husband woke up confused to a chaotic situation.
Luckily, the couple made it to the hallway but when they saw the path through which Marshall had entered the house, they could only see the fire quickly spreading.
“All I saw was flames coming through the wall,” said Gary.
The three of them managed to escape through the backdoor as they could not possibly take the same route Marshall took to get inside.
Luckily, Gary and Kathy had made it out alive without getting hurt. However, they did breathe in quite a bit of smoke. What is extremely devastating for the couple is having their belongings destroyed and even worse, watching their pets die due to the smoke.
“Their garage completely burned, their bathroom and living room partially burned, the rest of the home is severely heat, water and smoke damaged,” the couple’s son, Nicholas Benjamin who grew up in the same house, wrote on GoFundMe.
“They lost our other family dog Sophia and their two Siamese cats Snicklefritz and Cocoa to smoke inhalation and it appeared as though they were trying to escape as well. My mother especially has been crying about this, in addition to everything else, almost constantly since the fire. We love our pets like family. Not to mention alot of my parents childhood memories, slides, pictures, etc were in storage in the garage and were ultimately destroyed. This home was their life…”
The GoFundMe page was set up, hoping to raise funds to help the couple through this difficult time.
The one thing that Gary and Kathy will always be grateful for is the heroic efforts shown by Marshall that day.
“Lifesaver, lifesaver is all I can say,” Gary told KMOV.
Kathy called him a “hero” and added, “he’s our angel.”