Teton County Sheriff's Deputy Chad Sachse said he helped put the bedridden Brinkley in a wheelchair and pushed him to safety early Tuesday. Brinkley, 82, and his caregiver escaped injury.
Sachse had gone to check a security guard's report of a fire at the town house complex in this northwest Wyoming town and found flames shooting out of the roof near the chimney.
The security guard had not believed the residence was occupied, but Sachse said he pounded on the door and looked in windows anyway.
When Sachse saw a television set on, he broke a screen and entered through a kitchen window. He shouted, waking the caregiver from a couch in front of the fireplace.
"I'm a pretty loud person," Sachse said Wednesday. "I'm sure I scared the bejesus out of her because she was sound asleep."
Sachse went into a bedroom and woke Brinkley. Wilson Fire Chief Steven Moomey arrived soon after and he and Sachse put Brinkley into a wheelchair and pushed him to Sachse's patrol car.
"It wasn't extremely cold, luckily, but we needed to get him someplace where he was comfortable," he said.
He said Brinkley was taken to a bed in an unoccupied, furnished town house nearby. Brinkley's wife, Susan, was at the couple's home in Houston, Texas, at the time, according to Sachse.
Fire Marshal Rusty Palmer says the fire appears to have been caused by faulty insulation around the fireplace. Besides spreading through the inside of a wall up to the attic, flames burned through a crawl space under much of the town house. He estimated damage at $100,000.
"My personal opinion, 20 to 30 minutes later and this would have been a tragedy," Sachse said. "The fire department couldn't even walk on the floor after they got the fire out. It burned through there pretty good."
The town house is in Teton Pines, an ultra-exclusive resort community where Vice President Dick Cheney also has a home.
Brinkley retired in 1997 as host of ABC's "This Week" political round table. He appeared on NBC from 1956 to 1970 on the pioneering "Huntley-Brinkley Report."