Retired Firefigher Saves Family And House

By: Bryan Latham Email
By: Bryan Latham Email

The right place at the right time. An ex-firefighter plays a lifesaving role. He spotted smoke coming from the back of a nearby home. Not only did he manage to get the family to safety, he also helped save their house. Monday, the family is showing their gratitude.

"We dodged a bullet in a lot of ways," says Doug Menkel.

Under the deck lay some charred debris, next to it, is a blackened wall. But Doug Menkel knows two Saturdays ago, his house, just off 163rd and Giles, could have ended up in much worse shape. "There's no way I could say thank you enough times," he says.

Retired Omaha Firefighter PJ Driscoll was coming into the neighborhood to visit his son, when he noticed smoke billowing out from over the fence. He knew it wasn't a grill. "And when we turned the corner I could smell it and I knew right away we had a fire," says Driscoll.

After notifying the Menkels and getting them out of the house, his firefighter instincts kicked in. “I just grabbed the hose here next to the house here and it was just a garden hose and I have on what I have on today and I really didn't have the proper uniform but you got to do what you got to do," he says.

But that garden hose did the trick he says. “Water is water and sometimes a garden hose works," says Menkel.

Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Gentile says Driscoll arrived not a moment too soon. “If you look at the middle you can see where it's just starting to char there. So it's a good thing it got stopped when it did because if it got in the house it could have been worse," he says.

The Menkels are just thankful the former firefighter happened along when he did. "It's amazing. It really kind of renews your faith in people when you see something like that I mean I'm very grateful because it's my house. I'm also grateful that there are people like that out there.

The fire started when clothing, used for staining a deck, spontaneously combusted. Investigators say in a situation like that, it's best to lay cloths out flat and let them air dry before storing them.

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