Officer saves woman, 88, from blaze

Benton Police Officer Chris Goss is credited with saving an 88-year-old woman from a burning structure on Derby Circle.
Bruce Armstrong, fire marshal for the Benton Fire Department, said Goss crawled down a smoke-filled hallway to reach Jessie Mae Flowers, who was in bed in a rear bedroom of the structure at 2908 Derby Circle.
The fire was reported around 10:10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 26, during a period when many local residences were without electrical power.
Upon entering the structure, Goss "encountered thick, black heavy smoke, which had filled the house," Armstrong said.
When firefighters arrived, they found flames coming from what appeared to be the kitchen area, the fire marshal noted.
The house, which was considered a total loss, reportedly was owned by Donna Parker, who was away visiting relatives.
Flowers is Parker's mother, the fire marshal explained.
"Mrs. Parker's sister, Jan Byers, her husband, Howard, and daughter were there taking care of Mrs. Flowers," he added.
According to Byers, the structure lost electrical power on Christmas night and the family had been using a wood-burning fireplace for heat throughout the night.
"The next day they heard crackling noises in the ceiling above the fireplace," Armstrong said.
"When Howard Byers went outside the home to investigate, he saw smoke coming from around the vent pipe," he added.
"Mr. Byers then went to the garage and entered the attic through a ladder in the garage and found heavy smoke," Armstrong said. "They called 911 and he, his wife and daughter got out safely on their own."
Officer Goss arrived on the scene before the firefighters, Armstrong noted.
According to Lt. Kevin Russell, a neighbor immediately informed Goss that one of the home's occupants was inside the structure and was bedridden due to a medical condition.
Armstrong noted that Goss observed black smoke coming from all four sides of the roof. "He went to the front door, which was slightly open, and made contact with Howard Byers, who was on the front porch.
"Mr. Byers told the officer that the owner's mother was confined to bed because of a medical condition," he said.
"The officer entered the house and initially could not find the woman," Armstrong said. "He announced 'Benton police' upon entry and Byers yelled at him. He told the officer that Mrs. Flowers was in a bedroom at the back of the house and she could not walk out on her own."
The officer said he crawled on the floor through thick smoke to reach the back bedroom, where he found the woman lying on her bed. He picked her up and carried her out a rear door.
"Goss was able to carry her to a neighbor’s house where she was turned over to Saline Memorial Hospital paramedics for screening," Russell said.
"No injuries were reported, although Mrs. Flowers was checked for smoke inhalation," Armstrong said.
Since the incident, the family has been staying with relatives, Armstrong added. "Jackie Campbell of the Red Cross came out and provided assistance to the owner, her mother and the visiting family.
"The officer did not suffer any injuries," he added.
Police Chief Kirk Lane commended Goss for his actions, saying, "I think it's outstanding."
According to Armstrong, the fire is believed to have originated in the chimney of the house. "We're not sure if there was a break in the piping or what, but there was no electricity in the house, no candles were in use and all other heat sources were ruled out."
Armstrong said a manufactured fireplace with double-wall vent pipe that went through the attic was being used to supply heat to the structure.
Three fire trucks, including 10 firefighters, responded to the fire, Armstrong said. District Chief Garland Phillips was in charge of the scene.