Neighbor speaks on fire rescue attempt

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Dothan, AL (WSFA) – Fire Investigators released new details Friday in the fatal fire that killed 91-year-old Connie Hollis.

Her neighbor, George Wimbley, attempted to rescue her from the flames.

He says, he doesn't consider himself a hero, just a friend who was acting on instinct.

"I tried to save her because I love her," he said.

Thursday afternoon, he was working in his backyard when he heard something was wrong across the street.

"I came from behind my house, and my grandbaby told me that her house was on fire."

As soon as he saw the smoke and flames coming from the front door, he immediately came across the street and started banging on the front door.

Wimbley said, "I beat on the door and beat on the door, and I finally kicked it in.  There was smoke coming up, and when I looked down, I saw her hand."

Despite his best efforts, the smoke was just too thick, and firefighters arrived soon after.

Dothan Fire Chief Larry Williams said, "It was pretty apparent that this is what we would call 'dead on arrival'."

Authorities believe she put her purse too close to a space heater.

It eventually got so hot, it caught on fire.

Fire Marshal Danny Appling, who worked the case, said, "We believe she was sitting in a chair relaxing when she noticed the fire.  As she stood up, our initial autopsy results show that she inhaled some super heated gas and smoke.  At her age, she is very frail, and she succumbed to the fire pretty quickly and fell down."

Back on Burdeshaw Street, neighbors say it just won't be the same without her.

George Wimbley said, "It's been real hard for me and my grandbaby because she knew her too.  We've been around this neighborhood a long time, and it's just sad."

They're taking solace in knowing that they did what they could to save a friend.

Fire officials say the house did have one smoke alarm, but it was not working.

They took the opportunity to stress the importance of making sure your alarm is in working order.

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