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Neighbor saves woman, three children from burning home in Portage County

Posted at 4:49 PM, Mar 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-28 16:50:30-04

An alert neighbor, who happened to be running late for work, saved a woman and her three children from a burning home in Randolph Township near Atwater Tuesday morning.

"There was no way that the fire department was gonna get there in time," said Eric Peterson. "You only have a couple of minutes. They would have all died of smoke inhalation if I wouldn't have beat on the door to wake them up."

As far as Melissa Eddy is concerned, Peterson has gone from the neighbor she had never met to her personal hero.

"I literally owe my family's life to him. Within two minutes of us getting out of the house, the whole house was engulfed in flames," Eddy said. "I am so thankful. I don't know how to express myself. I mean, it's an overwhelming feeling about the what ifs."

Peterson — who was running late for work — was on his way to his job at Richard's Fence Wholesale in Akron when he noticed smoke and flames pouring from a house several doors down on Aberagg Road around 6 a.m.

When Peterson noticed nobody was outside, he pulled over and jumped into action.

"I was beating on the door, beating on the door, yelling. I was trying to get somebody's attention because I knew there were people in the house," he said.

The banging woke up Eddy's three daughters, ages nine to fourteen. They thought someone was breaking into the house but escaped after realizing the home was filling with smoke.

Peterson then took his heroic actions a step further by racing into the burning home and waking up Eddy in a basement bedroom.

"I was woke up by a man screaming, 'Your house is on fire! You have to get out!'" He found his way to my bedroom," Eddy said.

She also got out of the house and reunited with her children. Peterson was also forced to save himself.

"The house was completely full of smoke, so then I ended up going to the one bedroom and opened up the window and kicked the screen out and jumped out the front window," Peterson said.

Eddy's husband had left for work earlier that morning and was not home when the fire broke out.

The family said two dogs and a cat also survived the blaze, but they lost nearly all of their personal belongings. The American Red Cross is assisting and the family of six is staying with relatives.

Eddy said fire investigators focused on an electric fireplace built into a TV stand in a sunroom as a possible cause of the fire, but there has not been an official ruling.

Peterson said he's grateful everyone made it out of the home okay, but he does not consider himself a hero.

"I'm just a neighbor that would do what anybody else, hopefully, anybody else would have done," said Eric Peterson. "I just happened to be there at the right place at the right time."