Neighbor rescues sleeping baby as grease fire rips through Florence home

FLORENCE, Ky. -- A father returned to his Florence home Tuesday night to see that Monday's flames left nothing behind.

A fire destroyed the home of Ray Arnold, but it didn't touch his sleeping toddler thanks to a heroic friend.

The fire began at about 9:30 p.m. at a home in the 8800 block of Sentry Drive. Heavy smoke could be seen several blocks away.

Arnold was cooking fish he caught in oil when an accident occurred and sparked the blaze that ripped through his home.

"I tripped and the grease and the fire fell on me and I fell on the ground," Arnold said.

Arnold suffered second-degree burns when the oil and flames fell on him. As he scrambled to put out the flames, his friend Jay Schultz burst into the home.

"Jay came in and he said, ‘Ray, are you ok?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Go get my son,’" Arnold said.

Schultz was able to rescue Arnold’s 2-year-old son who was sleeping upstairs while the flames ripped through the house.

"He ran up the steps. He didn’t know what room (he) was in and he really saved my son's life,” Arnold said.

The grease fire spread quickly while they raced to escape.

"It was probably 20 minutes and that house was completely engulfed in flames,” Arnold said. "Thirty seconds to a minute more and he would have been dead. My son's bedroom was right above where the fire started."

The thankful father said he’s lucky his friend was there.

"You can't say enough, he saved my child,” Arnold said. "Thirty seconds to a minute more and he would have been dead. My son's bedroom was right above where the fire started."

He said Schultz wasted no time putting himself in harm's way to save his friend's son.

"If he would have hesitated, if something would have happened -- if he would have hesitated a little longer, I don’t think he would have been able to get upstairs,” Arnold said.

Neighbors said Schultz put the baby under his shirt and rushed the little boy outside to safety.

Because of the thick smoke, Schultz had to feel his way back downstairs before getting out the back door and over a fence.

"He saved Micah's life. He really did," said Micah Arnold's mother, Michelle Arnold. "They say if it would have been a minute or two later he probably wouldn't have been able to get to him."

The boy was doing OK, and was sipping on water at the fire station after the rescue. Micah was taken to Children’s Hospital for observation because he has Down Syndrome, and was released early Tuesday morning.

"He's smiling," Arnold said. "You could never tell anything happened which is what we want."

In addition to Arnold and his son, Arnold’s wife and daughter were inside the home when the fire started but they were not injured.

Neighbor Bob Moore said, "I saw around back that the smoke was coming, so I took off running, tried to jump over the fence."

Moore believes Schultz "saved the baby's life."

"He (Schultz) collapsed in the front yard, and I kind of helped him across the street," Moore said. "By then, we heard the glass breaking, just a lot of chaos."

It took firefighters more than half an hour to get the fire under control.

The home is considered a total loss, and that's what Arnold returned home to see Tuesday when he was released from the hospital. His leg and hand are heavily bandaged, but Arnold told WCPO reporter Jason Law that he felt lucky rather than in pain.

"Your kids, you can't replace your kids," he said. "I'm just thankful that all my family is still together."

Arnold said Schultz suffered smoke inhalation.

"I talked to Jay on the phone. He went to the same hospital we were at last night and he's doing really, really good," Arnold said. "I just told him I'm super-thankful that he did what he did."

The Arnold family rented the home on Sentry Drive, and had no insurance. They're starting over from scratch.

"You can replace stuff. You can't replace people. I lost a lot of memories. We lost a lot of stuff," Arnold said.

Members of Christ's Chapel Assembly of God in Erlanger announced Tuesday afternoon that they were accepting cash donations to assist the family. That church can be contacted at (859) 371-3787.

"Their focus is not on material things and their focus is on what matters the most and that's life and family and God," said church member Raeford Moore.

Michelle Arnold said even though her home was lost, she still had her gratitude, and family.

"At the end of the day stuff is just stuff," she said. "We have what's important to us and that's our family and our kids."

A fund was also set up through the Bank of Kentucky to accept donations.





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