APPALACHIA, Va. (WJHL) — When Wise County Sheriff’s Deputy Nathaniel Baker responded to the Inman community Monday morning, he was expecting to help with a service call. However, after responding to the call at 6 a.m., the 10-year veteran deputy made an alarming discovery nearby and jumped into action.
The Wise County native began to smell smoke and watched as ash appeared to pile around a nearby apartment at the Inman Village, he told News Channel 11. The two men who had originally made the service call informed Baker that a woman lived inside.
“I responded to a call for service, and while there I was speaking to two male subjects,” Baker said, “I started to smell smoke and noticed there was smoke coming from an apartment.”
The deputy rushed to the apartment and knocked on the door only to receive no response. After peaking through a back window and seeing smoke haze inside the home with no one who had appeared to escape, Baker returned to the front door with a pry bar to force his way in.
“That door was a little tougher because it’s a metal frame with a metal deadbolt,” he said.
Baker opened the door and was met with smoke billowing throughout the apartment and flames blazing in the kitchen area; upon a further glimpse past the smoke, he saw a woman lying on a mattress 10-15 feet away from the front entry.
He told News Channel 11 that he attempted to call out to see if she would respond, but those attempts again failed. Baker dropped to his hands and knees and crawled to the woman, rescuing her from the smoke and fire.
“If we didn’t remove her from that situation, it could’ve very quickly got worse,” Baker said. “There was no time to waste.”
According to Baker, the woman became coherent outside and was not injured in the fire.
That woman was Sharon Short-Morangello, a resident at the apartment of five years. Short-Morangello was back at the apartment assessing damage earlier today. She said most of her possessions outside the kitchen were salvageable.
She credited Baker with saving her life.
“It’s mostly the kitchen damaged,” Short-Morangello said. “I’d probably have burned to death in there if [Baker] hadn’t [come in].”
The Appalachia Fire Department and the Big Stone Gap Fire Department extinguished the early-morning blaze.
Appalachia Deputy Chief Travis Anderson said Baker’s heroic act was made more impressive by not having any fire-protective gear on.
“We wear all the turnout gear, the breathing apparatus,” Anderson said. “That stuff is to protect us. He inhaled toxic chemicals, smoke and stuff like that. He put his own life at risk to save another life.”
Wise County Sheriff Grant Kilgore commended Baker for his bravery. He said his deputies do not receive much fire training.
“We use our best judgement and do what we can do to help and save property and people,” Kilgore said. “I think he does a great job for us. He truly cares about his community. This is his home town, his home county, and I think he wants to make a difference here.”
Kilgore said he will apply for Baker to receive an award for his actions. He said that would most likely be for gallantry or life-saving.
News Channel 11 received bodycam footage of the rescue from Kilgore. The video is available to view at the top of this story.