UPDATE: Family thanks 'mystery neighbor' after house fire - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Family thanks 'mystery neighbor' after house fire

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COLLEGEDALE, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: A Collegedale man is alive today thanks to a quick thinking neighbor who helped get him out of his burning home.
Now his family is saying thank you.

Carmen Peel's friends and family were finishing Easter dinner when a friend noticed smoke coming from across the street.
Her friend, Justin Armstrong, ran to the house and started banging on the front door.

"The smoke was so bad in there," Peel said, "If he had not woke him up, he probably wouldn't be here. Really."

The noise woke up the only person inside the home, and Deborah Thomas's brother got out safely.

"You saved my brother," Thomas said.

Peel knew her neighbor had dogs, and she was able to rescue one of them before the flames engulfed the home.

"I couldn't see anything," Peel said, "With the front door open, sunlight pouring in, and there was so much thick grey and black smoke around you cant see anything."

By the time Thomas got to her mother's house it was chaotic, and no one knew who helped her family to safety.

Until now, when she finally got to meet the woman she calls a hero.

"Thank you, thank you, so very much," Peel said, "Just, thank you."

Peel had no idea Thomas's family was hoping to thank her, until Channel 3's coverage aired on Monday.
She say's she just thankful she and her friend could help keep her neighbors safe.

"If anything like that ever happened to our family, God forbid," Peel said, "I hope somebody would come and do the same for us."

A Fire Investigator was on the scene Tuesday trying to determine the cause of the fire.
Peel and other witnesses say it appears to have started in the kitchen area.


ORIGINAL STORY: One family is not only thanking firefighters, but also a 'mystery neighbor' for helping save their loved one in a house fire this weekend. The fire broke out Easter Sunday at a home in the Grindstone Estates neighborhood in Collegedale.

Deborah Thomas says thanks to the quick actions of a neighbor her brother is alive. She says she wants to find out who alerted her brother to the fire.

"I called my mom's phone. Didn't get an answer. I called my brother's phone and didn't get an answer," says Deborah Thomas.

Deborah Thomas was in a panic. Her mother's home was in flames and she could not track down either her mom or brother. It turns out, her mom was grocery shopping. But her brother, Mike, was asleep in a front bedroom when the fire started.

"One of the neighbors here, came over and was banging on the doors and they did. They woke him up," says Thomas.

Mike was able to escape along with two of the family dogs.

"They're a hero to me. They saved my brother's life."

Firefighters found another dog hiding under a bed.

"It's unbelievable. I can look and see things that were in my childhood home," says Thomas.

She is thankful firefighters were able to save her father's ashes from the flames.

"That would have been the worst loss," she says." I have my mom and brother and that's what matters."

She and her family are still trying to figure out who alerted Mike to the blaze. Other neighbors who ran to help say they have never seen the 'mystery woman' before.

"I want to know who it was because I want to give them a real big hug. A real big hug," says Thomas.

In the meantime, she and her family are sifting through what is left.

"It will be okay. We got God on our side. And we'll keep on keeping on, that's right," says Thomas.

Deborah's mother does have insurance but lost many collectibles in the fire.

The Red Cross and surrounding churches are helping the family with clothes and other immediate needs.

Investigators have not pinpointed what started the fire, but say it appears to be accidental.
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