WASHINGTON COUNTY, Wis. - When a man in the Town of Barton heard an explosion Friday night, July 23, he ran into the home without hesitation to save his elderly neighbor inside. The Washington County sheriff says he's a hero who likely saved his neighbor's life. That neighbor says it was just the right thing to do.
Jeff Dreher said he heard the explosion, thinking a tree had just fallen on top of his home. Instead, he saw smoke rising from his neighbors' home, now reduced to rubble and ash. If not for Dreher, the sheriff says the situation could've been much worse.
"Fire's gotta be one of the most devastating things there is," said Dreher.
Dreher said he never had a second thought when he heard the explosion Friday night that caused a fire next door. He then saw his neighbor's son outside, but his neighbor, a 78-year-old man known as Augie, was still inside.
"Thin ice, heights, I mean, nothing's ever bothered me," said Dreher. "I just, I knew Augie was in there, and I knew I had to get in there."
Dreher took a deep breath, found Augie about 20 feet inside and led him out of the house. Minutes later,14 fire departments rushed to the scene in Barton, just north of West Bend. It took several hours to knock down the flames that burned so hot, they melted the siding on Dreher's house.
His actions drew high praise Monday from local first responders. In a statement, Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis said, "Without delay or hesitation, this man ran toward the fire to rescue the victim. Had this hero not taken immediate action, this victim would most likely not have made it out of that house."
Dreher says it was the least he could do for a neighbor who's been like a father to him for more than two decades.
"I just did what I had to do," said Dreher. "I don't consider myself a hero. I like to think that anyone else in my position would've did the same thing. That's a human life. You gotta do everything you can, in your power, to save that life."
FOX6 News spoke with a family member of the two fire victims. She said they are still in critical condition at the hospital. The family is working on assessing the damage and creating a fundraiser and asks for healing prayers.