Suncoast man honored for saving neighbor from fire

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MANATEE COUNTY - A Suncoast man has been honored as a hero by Southern Manatee Fire Rescue for saving his neighbor from a fire.

Lawrence Smith saved a neighbor from a fire at their apartment complex back in April. On Tuesday, the fire district showed their gratitude and thanks for his fearless actions.

Smith says it never even crossed his mind to not go into the burning apartment, because he knew his neighbor was still inside.  And thanks to his quick action, the fire chief says the woman would have been seriously injured, or could have even died.

Fire officials say they received the call for a structure fire around noon on April 5th. When units arrived on the scene, firefighters reported seeing flames and heavy smoke coming from this second floor apartment.

Luckily, before fire crews even arrived, Smith sprang into action. He says he was sitting outside with some friends and family when they smelled smoke. Once he spotted which apartment it was coming from, he knew he had to get in to make sure the resident was out. “So I ran up there and I bammed and I bammed and I tried to grab the fire thing and she still didn't know when I got in the house, in the room, so I had to run out…and I said come on out the house, and told her don't worry about that, don't worry about that. The smoke was so bad in the kitchen, but I got her out of there and we went downstairs and I said call 911, call 911!

“The fire had already spread throughout the kitchen and because of his quick action and the notification that got her attention, she was able to escape unharmed. “If it wouldn't have been for his actions she could've been seriously injured or even died as a result of that fire,” says Chief Brian Gorski of the Southern Manatee Fire Rescue District.

Fire officials say the resident of that apartment left a pot of grease on the stove unattended while she took a phone call in a back bedroom. They say she was distracted by the call and didn't even realize the grease had caught on fire.

No one else was injured in the fire, and the damage was contained to the kitchen.