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Man In Wheelchair Dies After Saving Wife From Fire

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EULESS (CBSDFW.COM) - A Euless man died early Friday morning in an apartment fire that also killed his dogs and could have killed his wife if not for the man's actions.

The fire began about 1:30 a.m. in a downstairs apartment and quickly spread to the second floor. Fortunately the upstairs was vacant. Fire officials and neighbors told CBS 11 News the man was found in the living room... but after he reportedly helped his wife make it outside.

"It was pretty intense, the flames got pretty high reaching the second part (floor) of the building. Caught the trees on fire right at the front," said neighbor Tawnia Goodwin. "All I could think was that this could've been anybody's family that's gone through that. It's horrible. And it's scary."

Though in a wheelchair himself, neighbors said the husband helped save his wife and tried to save their dogs. Linda Newlin claims the woman was blown out of a plate glass window. "She was in shock -- shaking, crying a little bit. Concerned about her husband. She said, 'He was right behind me, I don't see how he didn't get out.'" Then the wife's thoughts turned to the family pets, too. "Then she said, 'My babies.' Her dogs. She had three dogs. They were like her kids. It was just very sad."

Her husband's body was found in the living room. The dogs perished as well.

By daylight, workers were seen boarding up damaged apartments. Daniel Vandervort said the man would regularly wave and talk to people from his perch on the porch overlooking the parking lot. He calls the couple nice people. "They cared about each other a lot. And she, uh, cared about her husband and her dogs."

Two apartments were ruined, six others damaged. Noble Pearce lost his electricity and gas service and will have to move. "They don't want us staying here with the electricity off. I can understand that," he told CBS 11 News.

Besides sharing a love of dogs, Pearce said the two men hit it off because Pearce's son must also use a wheelchair. He winced at the thought of his friend's death. "Oh, it's really sad, really sad. And the frightening thing is him being in a wheelchair. I can't imagine what he went through. It's horrible, really."

As of this writing the identities of the family were not available. Nor had firefighters pinned down as cause for the blaze. Physical loss to the property was estimated at roughly $200,000.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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