Fort Benning man alerts fellow soldier's family to fire

benw@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 22, 2013 

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerSpc. Pristen Perez, at left, of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team and 1st. Sgt. Michael Ascott of the 362nd Engineer Company, 11th Engineer Battalion at Fort Benning had never met before a garage fire at Ascott's home Dec. 14 in Smiths Station, Ala.

1st. Sgt. Michael Ascott is thankful for a Fort Benning soldier who ran through woods and jumped fences in the dark to warn his family of a fire at their Smiths Station, Ala., home.

Ascott, a member of the 362nd Engineer Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, had never met Spc. Pristen Perez of the 203 Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team before the 9:30 p.m. fire ignited Ascott's garage on Dec. 14. Quick thinking by Perez gave Ascott time to get his family outside and battle the fire until the Smiths Station Volunteer Fire Department arrived.

"The most I would have expected was people to pick up the phone and dial 911," Ascott said Thursday. "Really, if someone had just done that my house would have burned down. I'm incredibly grateful that his house is 150 yards on the other side of the woods from mine."

Perez said he did what he would expect someone to do for him. "Honestly, I feel like if I was in that situation, I'd want them to react the same way I did," Perez said.

Perez said he and his wife were watching TV when he saw flames in the house from his back yard.

"At the time I saw a flame, my first instinct was somebody was having a barnfire, but once I went outside, I saw it was on fire," he said. "I grabbed my cell phone and flashlight. I began jumping fences until I made it to the house."

Perez banged on the first door he found as flames were shooting from the garage.

Ascott was almost passed out watching TV on the couch while his son, Johnathan, was in bed and his wife Rachel was getting ready for bed. That's when he heard banging in the back of the house.

"My first thought was it was coming out of the garage so I opened the garage," Ascott said.

Finding the garage full of smoke, Ascott went around to the other side of the house and found Perez who was letting them know the house was on fire.

"We were lucky," Ascott said. "We didn't know anything was going on until he came and warned us. If he didn't let us know when he did, it would have gotten into the house and we probably would have lost the whole house."

Ascott ran into the house and found two fire extinguishers to battle the blaze in the garage. Perez helped Ascott's wife and son get out of the house, then grabbed a garden hose to control the fire until firefighters arrived.

"It didn't take long once I got to house, got everybody out and started working on the fire," Perez said. "The fire department came very fast. They took care of it from there."

A fire investigator is fairly certain the culprits in the fire are squirrels. They apparently had built a nest around some security lighting on the back of the garage, Ascott said.

Ascott credits Perez with saving their home. "There is no way for me to thank him enough," he said.

The ending couldn't have been better for Perez. "I'm just glad everybody was OK," he said.

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