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Neighbors rush to the rescue in fire

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Warren County firefighters battle a fire at 24 E. Prospect St., Front Royal, on Sunday night. A smoke detector alerted the residents to the fire. Courtesy photo/Warren County Fire Department

Man carries disabled resident part way down steps to safety in Sunday night blaze

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Bruce Smoot's Super Bowl party turned into a life-saving rescue drama after he left the game behind to carry two neighbors to safety from their flaming duplex Sunday night.

The victims, Jeffrey and Katherine Laudermilk of 24 E. Prospect St., survived thanks to Smoot and Officer L.J. Waller of the Front Royal police, both of whom waded through thick black smoke to reach the victims. Jeffrey Laudermilk is disabled and unable to walk without assistance, Waller and Smoot said.

"I didn't really think about it. I just reacted," Smoot said Monday. "I guess I got it in me and didn't know it."

Jeffrey Laudermilk was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene by members of the Warren County Fire and Rescue Services and taken to Warren Memorial Hospital where he was released later, Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie says in a news release. Katherine Laudermilk, his wife, was uninjured, Mabie said.

The fire destroyed much of the duplex, leaving an estimated $35,000 in damage and forcing the Laudermilks to move in with a family member in Front Royal, Mabie said in an interview. They could not be reached for comment.

Firefighters arrived at the scene at 7:48 p.m. and brought the fire under control by 8:11 p.m., Mabie said. He said a fire investigator concluded that the fire started in a bed as a result of discarded smoking materials.

Smoot and family members were watching the Super Bowl in their home at 17 E. Prospect St. across from the Laudermilks when Brooke Harrison, his girlfriend's daughter, noticed something wrong across the street.

"I actually saw the flames and said to them 'Look,'" Harrison said.

Smoot, Harrison and the others gathered by the kitchen window and saw smoke and flames pouring out of a second floor window of the duplex.

Smoot, 43, said he raced into the Laudermilks' building in his bare feet and found Jeffrey Laudermilk lying motionless at the top of the stairs, his legs on the landing and his upper body on the top two steps.

Smoot said he picked up Laudermilk and carried him part way down the steps before handing him off to Waller, who finished carrying him down the steps and outside to safety.

In the meantime, Smoot returned to the second floor of the building where smoke had made it almost impossible to see. He found his way to the entrance of the bedroom where the fire started and continued to rage. Smoot said he reached around the corner and, after two unsuccessful attempts, gripped Katherine Laudermilk's hand and pulled her from the inferno.

He hoisted her onto his shoulder and carried her down the stairs, he said. Smoke had nearly overwhelmed them by then, Smoot said, adding that the fire singed his whiskers and the side of Katherine Laudermilk's face.

"She was done," Smoot said. "If it had been any longer in there, there wasn't much I could have done. I was about done myself."

Waller praised Smoot for acting quickly and courageously when he saw the blaze.
"He's just a regular citizen across the street," Waller said. "When he saw that [fire], he didn't hesitate. He went right in. I think that says a lot for him."


Yaayyyy for everyday heroes!

You never know what you will do in the face of an emergency until it comes upon you.

Mr Smoot and Officer Waller deserve all of our thanks for a job well done! Not everyone (besides firemen) are willing to throw their safety aside and run into a burning building to save a life!

Thank goodness for the quick actions of Bruce Smoot and officer Waller of the F.R.P.D. for their quick and heroic actions. It would have been a tragic ending if they waited for the Front Royal fire department, since they were probably the last of the five fire/rescue crews to arrive. This is where UshouldBconcerned.........

I live on the corner of Church and Prospect. The town house affected is right behind our house. I am very thankful and honored to be living in a neighbor where heroes like Bruce Smoot live. Our neighborhood is full of hard working citizens who care about their neighbors and we try to keep an eye out for everyone.

Mr. Ratigan in your reply you state that citizens care about their neighbors. If you are running for mayor of Front Royal you may want to act like you recognize the courageous and dedicated work of the men and women of the Front Royal Police Department. People are quick to kick them in the teeth but never want to praise them for jobs well done.

Of course the Front Royal Town Policeman who assisted in the rescue is a hero as well. And I deeply apologies for not mentioning him as well. Someone else who needs mentioning as well is the 911 dispatcher and Fire Departments who responded as well.

I feel it is important to note that I do not Act like I care about the police and fire and rescue personal. I do care about them. Over a year ago we had to call the 911 to our house and were and are very thankful for the prompt and courteous and professional service that we recieved from both the police responders and rescue responders.

Now I think it is time to stop picking apart every little thing I say. The jest of my statement was clearly meant to get the message across that the neighborhood I live in is a good neighborhood to live in. We have a strong group of Neighbors who actively look out for their neighbors' property and are concerned about the welfare and health of their fellow Neighbors as well. To imply that I was deliberately leaving out our Police Department or Fire Department is going a little far. I understand that I am a candidate for Mayor and I welcome your thoughts and criticisms but must you turn a what could've been a tragic story that ended in a happy and everyone is alive and well story into a political "Gotcha" moment?

For once let's celebrate all the heroes and be thankful that the victims of the fire are save and alive and Leave Politics Out of It! And to the heroes and victims of this fire let me apologies for this. Politics should've never have been a part of this thread and it was not my intention for politics to be brought into this thread and I apologies for my part.

Mr Ratigan, I understand that it was probably an oversight on your part, however, I must admit when I read your comment, it stood out glaringly to me as well.

I am not politically motivated, just aware that folks like the police department do engage in good things. After all, their motto is to "Protect and Serve." Thats all.

Not everyone, whether it be a police officer or everyday citizen has the intestinal fortitude to run into a building full of smoke and danger...they both just happened to be there and have what it took. Thankfully.

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