Raytown man’s attempt to rescue dog from burning home nearly cost him his life

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RAYTOWN, Mo. -- A house fire in Raytown turns into a near-fatal situation.

Firefighters say a man escaped from a blaze on E. 66th Street that started around 11 a.m. on Thursday, but then, ran back inside to retrieve a pet. That's what caused him to be trapped in the house's upstairs, before firefighters pulled him from the home 20 minutes later. He was one of two people trapped in the burning home, according to Raytown Fire Chief Matt Mace.

One neighbor described the fire as being a heartbreaking sight. It leaves one family homeless, and their loved one in the hospital with serious injuries.

Denise Clark, who owns the home, said her home was burning when she came home from the grocery store.

When firefighters arrived at the home, it was a mass of smoke and flame. Clark said she'd made a trip to the supermarket, leaving her son, Christopher Sims, 26, at home with his girlfriend. When she came back, the home was on fire.

"At first, I thought it was somebody else. One of my neighbors grabbed me and I said, 'oh, no. It's my house'," Clark said.

Clark said her son returned to the burning house to rescue a family pet. Chief Mace said he had to be rescued. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, his sister, Jennifer Sims, said Christopher is still in the hospital with swelling of his brain.

"Animals are treasured members of the family. I get it, but at this point, the animal was also unsalvageable. Now, we're looking at a possible fatality fire after going back in for a pet," Chief Mace said on Tuesday.

John West, a neighbor, helped rescue Sims' girlfriend from the house. He told FOX 4 News he smelled smoke, and he and another man pulled the woman from a basement window. West said he heard the woman screaming and beating the window, desperate to escape.

"I just saw flames coming up in the living room. It looked like all of a sudden it did a flashback or something. It did a woosh and flames started shooting up everywhere," West said.

West, 66, is a retiree, and insists his action was not one of heroism. He was merely doing right by a neighbor in need.

"It was pretty difficult, but with her cooperation and calmness that she had, she did a fine job of getting out of there and helping us get her out," West said. "We just do what we do to get by here in the neighborhood. It's a good neighborhood to be in."

Clark said she lost two of her five pets in the fire. She said she'd recently invested in upgrades to the two-story house, which, according to firefighters on the scene, looked like a complete loss.
"It's amazing how fast it goes up. I don't know what caused it. I'd just done a lot of repairs -- new roof and new foundation work. It's amazing how fast it can go. One minute, it's here; the next, it's gone," Clark added.

Officials from the Missouri State Fire Marshal's office were at the burned-out home on Tuesday. A cause of the fire has not been announced.