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Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Off-duty Decatur fireman Jimmy Prickett spotted a fire at this Sherwood Oaks Drive home while on a jog Tuesday. He had a neighbor call 911, and banged on the door until on-duty firefighters arrived and confirmed no one was home.

Off-duty fireman helps save home from accidental fire
Cigarette, wind spark the blaze

By Chris Paschenko · 340-2442

An alert, off-duty fireman, who was jogging through his neighborhood Tuesday, spotted a house fire accidentally ignited by a cigarette and a stiff breeze.

Jimmy Prickett, a Decatur firefighter of nearly three years, startled a neighbor by pounding on her door, pleading for someone to call 911.

Prickett then banged on the door of the burning home at 1609 Sherwood Oaks Drive S.W. until on-duty firefighters arrived, made entry and confirmed no one was inside.

“I was coming up Sherwood and saw light smoke coming from the eves,” Prickett said. “I instinctively knew what it was. Then went next door to call 911.”

Hazel Boyett said Prickett startled her.

“It scared me so bad it made me nervous,” Boyett said. “If it had not been for him, it (the house) would have been lost. God’s got angels everywhere, and he sure was an angel today.”

Curtis Burttram of Decatur was installing a heating and cooling system nearby. He took pictures of flames shooting through the roof with his cell-phone camera.

Firefighters from four engine companies began arriving five minutes after the 11:16 a.m. 911 call and saved the wooden, two-story home despite wind gusts of 25 mph.

Fire Lt. Steve Barnett, who investigated the blaze, said the fire was accidental.

“It started on the outside upstairs patio in the corner next to the bedroom,” Barnett said. “Someone was smoking cigarettes, and they were using a potted plant as an ashtray. The wind was whipping in the corner and accelerated the fire after they left.”

The home sustained moderate fire damage on the patio and in the attic, and smoke damage throughout, fire Lt. Harmon Hale said.

“If it had been going another few minutes it could have burned the whole end of the house off, especially with the wind,” Barnett said.

Whitney Taylor said she and her husband, Jeff Taylor, own the home. They were attempting to contact their insurance company Tuesday afternoon.

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