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Posted: March 3, 2009 10:39 a.m.

2 saved from house blaze

Fire noticed by quick-thinking passer-by

Tyler Smith/

Newton County Firefighters battle the blaze at 3648 Ga. Highway 81 Monday morning.

Fast thinking from a passerby likely saved the lives of two Newton County residents when their home caught fire and began burning without their knowledge Monday morning.

Firefighters from the Newton County Fire Department received the call for assistance by the passerby, identified as Donnie Harris, at roughly 10 a.m. According to Captain Robert Thomas, Harris was driving by the house and noticed a fire in the back of the residence and thought someone was burning something. But when he drove a little further past he realized the flames he was seeing were coming from the walls of the back porch.

The large home, two stories and approximately 2,500 square feet, is located directly off of Highway 81 South. The elderly homeowners did not realize the house was on fire until Harris banged on their door, alerting them.

"He did everything right," said Thomas. "He reacting how we all hope our fellow citizens will react. I would call him a hero."

Although the home itself is still standing it is a total loss. There were no injuries in the blaze which officials believe was caused by ashes from a fireplace that were being emptied into a bucket outside which was placed too close to an outside wall. Thomas said the weather had no immediate bearing on the cause of the blaze but that firefighters had to be vigilant to make sure no one received frostbite due to the water and the extremely cold temperatures.

"We are very fortunate there were no injuries," Thomas said. "With a fire like this and in these conditions there could easily have been. We were very lucky."

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