Vietnam Veteran Killed Trying to Save Neighbor in House Fire

Posted on: 4:37 pm, November 30, 2012, by , updated on: 04:47pm, November 30, 2012

(Memphis) It’s not always like the movies, sometimes acting heroic will cost you your life.

The Shelby County Fire Department says a man was killed trying to rescue a woman from a burning home Thursday evening.

The courage of 69-year-old Willie Harris cost him his life. It’s the kind of bravery you would expect from a Vietnam veteran who went into a burning home to help save a disabled woman.

“I was like ‘wow’,” said Marcus Webb, a neighbor. “I was astonished to see that.”

Harris made it back out but it was enough to kill him. The homeowner managed to climb out of a window as flames gutted the home.

Witnesses say that Harris collapsed in the yard after coming out of the house. When paramedics arrived it was believed he was having a seizure, but family members tell News Channel 3 he was having a heart attack.

“They were doing chest compressions and squeezing the oxygen into his lungs,” Webb said. “At that point he probably didn’t make it then.”

Harris was taken to the hospital where he died. The Shelby County Fire Department says, although Harris’ actions were admirable, they were extremely dangerous. The fire department urges you not go into a burning home and to call 911 immediately. Firefighters have special gear to breathe and withstand 1200 degree temperatures.

“My uncle is with the fire department and he says when you see smoke to get out of there quickly,” said Webb.

Harris’ family members showed up saddened by the loss. “My family just needs everyone to keep us in their prayers,” Harris’ son said.

A fire spokesperson says how the fire started is still under investigation.