‘I started crawling into the room’: Man helps rescue 3 from burning Richmond home

‘I started crawling into the room’: Man helps rescue 3 from burning Richmond home

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A construction worker is opening up after he ran into a burning home in Richmond, helping to save three of the people inside.

Flames consumed the house on Maplewood Avenue earlier this month. Sadly, the construction worker was not able to reach the elderly, bedridden grandfather upstairs, who was trapped in a burning bedroom.

Charles Simpson was working on the same block as the house when he saw the smoke coming from its windows the morning of April 4. Simpson’s first impulse was to head straight into the danger.

"I came through the front door. I saw two older women. I got them out,” Simpson said.

Simpson, a 12-year volunteer firefighter for Louisa County, said this is the worst fire he had ever been involved with. After he ushered out the two woman downstairs, he ran up to the second floor.

“There was a woman standing in front of the doorway to the room that was on fire,” Simpson said. “She was in shock, so I had to get her out of the house also.”

After helping the two sisters and their friend out of the burning home, Simpson caught a quick breath and then ran back into the house. He headed for the bedroom at the center of the fire, with 69-year-old Byron Thornton trapped inside.

"I got down on the floor and started crawling,” Simpson said. “I couldn’t see the windows in the room. Almost the entire room was engulfed.”

Simpson called out to the bedridden man, trying to locate him through the heavy smoke and flames.

"I just said, ‘Call out! Where are you at?!’” he said.

The elderly man yelled for help twice, but Simpson was unable to reach him.

"The smoke and heat got way too intense,” he said.

Sadly, Byron Thornton didn’t survive.

Fire investigators on scene said he was a heavy smoker and that the flames were concentrated in his bedroom. No other information has been released.

“I was still upset that I couldn’t get to the fourth one (in the home),” Simpson said.

Thornton’s two adult daughters are now staying with relatives and at a hotel. They miss their father, but are thankful they still have each other, with the help of Simpson’s brave effort.

The family said the house is a total loss, and they’re now trying to rebuild. They also are in need of necessities like clothes. The family has set up an online donation fund, and said they are very grateful to the Red Cross, which also provided assistance.

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