Community tries to aid firefighter whose house burned - News, Weather & Sports

Colleagues rally to aid EMT, dispatcher and firefighter whose house burned

Larue County Volunteer Fire Chief Jason Sadler Larue County Volunteer Fire Chief Jason Sadler
Cindy Sallee Cindy Sallee

HODGENVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Whether as a full-time 911 dispatcher, part-time EMT or years spent with two volunteer fire departments, James Michael "Mikey" Key has helped hundreds in his community, but now that his own house has burned, he's reluctant to take help in return.

The house itself would gave firefighters no breaks.

"Any time you have an older structure like that, it dries over time," said Larue County Volunteer Fire Chief Jason Sadler. "Any time you put additions on it, makes it that much harder to fight."

Larue County, Hodgenville and Buffalo fire departments worked for four hours to control the flames after a passerby reported smoke coming from the windows of 220 E. Main Street at about 8 p.m. Tuesday. The fire rekindled twice overnight.

"They told my husband to leave for a little while, while they put it out just so he'd be on the safe side," said Cindy Sallee, who lives next door. "I guess in case it got out of control."

By Wednesday morning, everything Key and his girlfriend hold dear had been charred. Even his 2-year-old son's toys.

"It's good thing nobody was at home," Sallee said.

But Key knew his home had caught fire the minute 911 got the call. His fellow dispatchers alerted him. Key works not only as a full-time dispatcher, but also as a part-time Emergency Medical Technician and a second-generation volunteer for both Larue County and Hodgenville's fire departments.

"I answered the call," Key said.

"I actually got him, pulled him out," Chief Sadler explained. "I told him it was best for him, plus it was best for the rest of the firefighters on scene."

Key was distraught after he was unable to rescue the family cat.

"I'm glad my girlfriend wasn't there, my son wasn't there," Key said. "I'm grateful we have renter's insurance."

Key and his girlfriend had rented the home from a friend for about six months. He believes space heaters may have sparked the fire. "They may have caught something or overloaded the circuit."

Investigators haven't determined the exact cause, but the fire doesn't seem suspicious, Chief Sadler said.

The Red Cross helped provide shelter and cash so that Key and his girlfriend could buy clothing. Key's son, is with his mother.

"The support is overwhelming," Key said. "But it's tough for me to take help."

"It's a pride issue," Chief Sadler said. "All we can do is all we can do. You can offer assistance, but that doesn't necessarily mean he has to take it."

Key has been a volunteer firefighter for 12 years, since he was a teenager.

"He'd give you the shirt off his back. That's just the way he is," Chief Sadler said. "We're here for him. In any capacity that we may possibly serve-whether it be emotional, whatever."

"We want him to know all of his brothers and sisters are behind him," he said.

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