Rock Hill neighbor saves pets from burning home

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comFebruary 25, 2013 

— Joe Canty isn’t comfortable with the label “hero.”

He’d much rather prefer “father” or “neighbor.”

But on Monday, this father and neighbor didn’t hesitate when he kicked down the front door of his neighbors’ home as it burned, running inside and rescuing a Siamese cat named Kitty and a dachshund named Marlee.

Travis Martin, his wife Jacqueline and their son, 11-year-old Zackary, left home early on Monday, and weren’t around when fire crews were called to flames and smoke engulfing the inside of their two-story home at Young Warrior Town Road on the Catawba Indian Reservation.

A woman who lives across from the couple saw the smoke and called 911. She also alerted her neighbor, Canty, who realized that the Martin’s animals would still be inside.

“People love their pets,” Canty said, “just as much as they do their own family.”

Those facts alone compelled the 31-year-old Canty to kick the front door of his neighbors’ house three times until it finally broke off the hinges. He ran into the house and found the cat in a bathroom. He went upstairs and found the dog in a kennel.

By the time he left, firefighters arrived on scene and began tending to the flames. Canty, meanwhile, took the nerve-wracked animals and gave them refuge in his house.

Monday, he said, was the first time he’s ever run into a burning building.

“It doesn’t happen often,” he said. “I guess it was the rush of the moment.”

Crews from the Riverview and Lesslie fire departments swarmed the scene, managing to extinguish the flames inside the house within “five minutes,” said Wayne Reeves, assistant chief of the Lesslie Fire Department.

No official cause had been determined, but crews suspect the fire started in a motor fan in the downstairs bathroom that overheated, Reeves said. The flames traveled upward around the piping, burning a hole in the attic and leaving behind a wake of smoke damage.

No injuries were reported, and by 9 a.m., firefighters were rigging a ladder to an attic filled with books with plans to “mop up.”

A dollar estimate of the damage wasn’t available.

Travis and Jacqueline Martin stood nearby, watching as firefighters tried to salvage their partially-burned home.

Both Travis and Jacqueline Martin gave thanks to the people who worked to save their home. Now, “we are just trusting in God,” Travis Martin said.

The neighbors in the area are close, said Canty, who has lived across the street from the Martin’s for the past six years.

“They’re good people...good Christian people,” he said.

So, he’ll likely say running into a burning house was worth it. Still, when asked Canty if he felt like a hero, he gave a resounding, “No.

“I feel like a neighbor.”

• Jonathan McFadden •  (803) 329-4082• 

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