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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)– Investigators say an apartment fire off Wrightsville Avenue last night quickly filled the home with smoke, with one woman still inside. Before firefighters could arrive, neighbors jumped to action.

“I got home. Sat down. Was just playing with the dog, trying to relax, and then we heard some screams from the backyard,” neighbor Andrew Bartels said. “We went out there, and somebody was screaming, ‘Call 911!'”

Bartels says at first he didn’t realize his neighbors’ home on Pompano Court was on fire. Soon, black smoke started billowing from the windows, and he figured out someone was inside.

Another man decided to brave the smoke and went inside the burning building to help. Bartels says when that man lifted the woman to the window, he pulled her to safety.

“He pushed her up enough that I could grab under her arms and then I just pulled her out,” Bartels said.

The Wilmington Fire Department says the fire started in the kitchen because of unattended cooking.
Responders say they aren’t sure if the woman would have been saved from the flames if the two men didn’t step up and help when they did.

Bartels say he was just doing what he thought he should.

“It doesn’t seem real to be honest with you,” he said. “I just went out there, everybody was screaming. I just wanted to help out. It’s pretty crazy. It doesn’t seem like it really happened.”

Damages to the home from the fire are an estimated $50,000 to the building and $20,000 to the contents.

There is no word yet if the residents had insurance.

Comment on this Story

  • Ben Toole

    ummm why are you talking about this guy…what about the guy who went INSIDE the building… By the way the guy that went inside the building is my brother and he had to yell at the other guy to grab her.

  • David Toole

    The name of the man who braved the smoke is Gabe Toole–just turned 21 and about 135 pounds. Your story gets the basic facts right, but the TV news did not. There were several people on the roof and even more on the ground, but only one person was courageous enough to go through the window, into the suffocating smoke, find the unconscious woman, drag her off the bed, across the floor, and then lift her into the wndow opening for others to pull her out. The smoke was so severe and the task so difficult that he had to enter the house several times, coming out for air and then returning to his efforts amid the smoke-filled room. At no point did anyone else, including the man you quote in the story as doing something worthy of note, offer to help him inside the house. Every time he went through that window and into the smoke, he was all alone.

    Let’s give credit where credit is due. I admit that I am biased because I am Gabe’s father, but the facts are the facts, and he is the only person who risked his own life last night in order to attempt to save the life of a stranger. That is both the real story here, and something we can all aspire to.

    It is also worth noting that the way to end this story is not with a comment about insurance but with concern for the health of the woman, who apparently remains hospitalized. May we all pray that she recovers fully.



  • Guest2022

    Glad everyone got out of there safely. What a scary situation. I wanted to recommend a product called Auto-Out, a self-activating fire suppressor that can put out unattended cooking fires without you being in the room. These could really save a lot of lives and homes.


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