On Feb. 25, like many other nights, the 63-year-old was having problems sleeping and breathing. She had just been treated for Bronchitis and was using an oxygen machine to help her breath.
To help her relax, she lit a cigarette and propped up the leg rest of her recliner. Soon after, the cigarette fell to the ground and sparked a fire that could have taken two lives.
At 6 a.m., Vena White looked down and saw her carpet ablaze. She turned off her oxygen machine and went for the cordless phone, but it wasn't working. And the fire was moving fast.
She went for the phone in the kitchen, called 911 and tried to get out.
The smoke was too thick and she was running out of breathable air.
"I could barely see the door and I knew I had to get out or I was going to pass out," White said. "About that time, he came in to get me. He saved my life."
Jamie Taylor heard the call on his scanner.
Grovetown Fire Fighters respond to Cooper Road.
Taylor was already on Cooper Road and in the perfect position to save a life.
After completing a 12-hour shift as a Grovetown Public Safety Firefighter, Taylor decided to go to a friends house. He had not yet taken out his earpiece when he heard the call for responders.
After realizing he was on Cooper Road, Taylor set out to find which of the homes was on fire. It was one house down.
"I said 'Oh my God, that lady's house is on fire,"' Taylor said. "As I was running over, I could hear 'Help me! Help me!"'
Taylor, 32, said his training took over. Without thinking about what he was doing, he kicked in the side door in and found White pinned down in the corner of her kitchen.
"I told him there wasn't a way for me to get out," White said. "He told me we were both getting out and then he carried me out."
Minutes later, it became clear Taylor had saved White's life.
After making sure to put her out of harms way, Taylor turn the lights to his truck on for emergency responders to see and began to put on his gear.
Once reinforcements arrived, Taylor went back to help in to save the house. On the orders of Sgt. Rocky Lavallee, Taylor began to take out the front window to help the fire air out. Seconds later, Taylor said he and Lavallee heard a hissing noise and turned to run. The noise was a pair of oxygen tanks White had forgotten about.
"I turned behind (Lavallee) and there was a loud explosion," Taylor said. "It threw me about 20 feet from the window. I hit the ground and that was the last thing I remembered."
When Taylor came to, he was in an ambulance heading for Doctors Hospital, where he was eventually treated for minor bruises to his rib cage. Both consider themselves lucky to be alive and relatively unharmed.
"If that thing had exploded with me in there, it would have killed me," White said. "He's definitely my hero."
Days after saving White's life, Taylor said he'll do it again if the job calls for it: It's why he became a full-time fire fighter after volunteering for a year. There has been talk of recognizing Taylor's valor, Lavellee said.
"My training paid off," Taylor said. "I was just doing my job."
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