Palmyra Fire Department praised for first rescue in 25 years

When the smoke cleared, Nelson realized the woman he had just saved was a family friend.

It's a call you hope never to get. Barry Von Thun and his son Lee were hunting in Shelbyville Saturday when they got the call that their Palmyra home was on fire. Barry quickly called home to his wife, Darlene, but no one answered.

Palmyra Fire Chief Gary Crane was the first to respond after a neighbor flagged him over to the home. It took several minutes before he realized someone was still inside. A police officer told the firefighters he'd heard screams for help inside the home.

"You go from just trying to fight the fire to tearing down the door and getting in the house to find somebody," Crane said.

Volunteer firefighters Lt. Mark Heidbreder and Devin Nelson entered the Von Thun home with a mission, to find a woman trapped inside.

"It's difficult. You know, you start thinking a lot of things. You know you gotta get in there. You gotta step back and take a deep breath and that's what we're trained for," Heidbreder said.

Heidbreder and Nelson began the blind search for Darlene.

"You couldn't see two feet in front of you. You basically had to go in by feeling," Devin said.

Within minutes, the two found Darlene on her bedroom floor, with the smoke alarm ringing above.

"She was unconscious but breathing," Heidbreder said.

When the smoke cleared, Nelson realized the woman he had just saved was a family friend.

"I am so proud of Mark and Devin. They did a wonderful job of getting her out," Capt. Ron Kraft said.

"I'm just glad that it all worked out and she's doing well and it had a good outcome. She's alive," Crane said.

Darlene had inhaled hot smoke and soot, which burned her lungs and throat. Her husband knows it could have been much worse.

"I'd really like to thank this fire department. I'm proud of them for the work they did to get her out of there," Barry said, choking back tears.

"Mark Heidbreder and Devin Nelson, the whole fire two are true heroes of Palmyra, of Marion County. You saved my mom's life. My whole family is eternally grateful and we cannot thank you enough," Lee Von Thun said.

Darlene is recovering at University Hospital in Columbia. Nurses in the Intensive Care Unit upgraded her condition from serious to fair Monday morning.

This was the first rescue for the Palmyra Fire Department in 25 years. Crane says the last rescue was a similar situation but the victim in that case died at the hospital.