COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Residents at a senior living complex are calling Collier deputies and firefighters heroes. Last night, one of the floors inside Goodlette Arms caught fire and a hundred people had to be evacuated.
"Oh I'd give them all a big hug if I could do that. They were fantastic, honestly we're so proud of them," resident Marion Boyce tells WINK News.
Today, Boyce's building is a buzz, not only with crews trying to clean up damage, but with residents full of thanks.
"They go in and risk their lives, but that's their dedication to their job," fire evacuee Walter Pearson says.
Cpl. James Casey with the Collier County Sheriff's Office was the first deputy to arrive on scene and run into the burning building. His quick thinking saved lives when he hit the fire alarm that never went off.
"We started hearing people screaming for help. 'Help me, I can't see, I'm blind'," Casey recalls while trying move his way through smoke-filled halls.
Cpl. David Leatherwood soon followed, carefully helping people who couldn't walk get to safety. "I pictured it was like my own grandmother being in there. You can't leave them behind."
At one point these deputies didn't know if they would make it out alive.
"We were choking. At more than one point we said we have to get out of here or we're going to be victims ourselves. Every time we went to leave we'd hear 'help me, help me help me', and we just kept dragging people to the stairway," Casey tells us.
In all six deputies ran inside the building, all of them had to be transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation. They're all being recognized for their bravery, including Sgt. Rich Williams, Cpl. Anna Cohen, Cpl. Kasey Wingo, and Cpl. Dave Whitt.
All the residents at the Goodlette Arms complex are doing well today. The cause of the fire is not known at this time, but East Naples Fire Department tells us it seems accidental in nature and the resident living in the apartment wasn't home at the time.