Narrow Escape

Occupants Of Burning Home Just Make It Out

Posted: February 15, 2013

Just moments after Shannon Johnson heard that a Fort Valley home down the street from hers was on fire Thursday morning, she was on the way to help.

Johnson, who works as office manager for the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department, heard the news around 7 a.m.

She knew that Stanley and Lucy Stephens, who lived at the stricken St. David’s Church Road residence, were disabled and would have trouble evacuating.

The Stephenses are relatives of Johnson’s fiancé.

At first, she hoped the situation wasn’t too dire, as she couldn’t see smoke from the top of her driveway.

“But when I rounded the turn and saw their house, I could see the flames,” Johnson said.

When she arrived, Stanley Stephens was on the second-floor porch and Lucy Stephens was still in bed. Their daughter, Betty, was already there trying to assist her mother.

After finding too much smoke to enter from the front, Johnson jumped a gate to gain access to the backdoor.

“I ran into the house then and helped Betty to remove her mother from the residence,” she said. “We were also able to [evacuate] their two dogs.”

Stanley Stephens was helped down the stairs and to a wheelchair.

Moments later, fire and rescue personnel arrived and the Stephenses were given oxygen and transported to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Woodstock.

Both are doing fine and staying with their daughter, Johnson said.

As a fire and rescue employee, she’s familiar with the emergency process and has been at the scene of several fires. But Thursday was the first time Johnson was a part of the action.

“Typically, I assist in the rehabilitation or the investigation with the fire marshal,” she said.

While the rescue was taking place, Johnson said she didn’t have time to think.

“It wasn’t until I got everyone out that it kind of hit me,” she said. “It scared me after it was over and how much potential there was for something to go wrong.”

Fire crews remained on the scene for about three hours. The home suffered significant fire and smoke damage, but a dollar estimate was unavailable Thursday.

John Collins, public information officer for the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department, said the cause is still under investigation.

Fire and rescue units responded to the scene from Fort Valley, Edinburg, Mount Jackson and Strasburg. Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue also responded.

The home’s smoke alarm was a factor in the occupants getting out in time.

“If you don’t have smoke alarms in your house, we urge you to contact us and we’ll help you get some,” Collins wrote in a statement.

Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue can be contacted at (540) 459-6167.
Contact Kaitlin Mayhew at   574-6290 or