2 pull disabled man out of fire

Jack Rothmyer, along with an off duty Mt. Pleasant fireman, pulled his Clark Sound Circle neighbor out of a back window of his burning home Saturday morning.

Jack Rothmyer normally helps people with back pain through his chiropractic business.

On Saturday, he and an off-duty Mount Pleasant firefighter pulled a paraplegic man from a burning home on James Island.

Rothmyer's wife, Sara, had heard an explosion and looked out her children's bedroom window around 9:30 a.m. to see flames shooting from the garage of a neighbor's house.

It was Tom Bahringer's house at 1564 Clark Sound Circle, just two houses away on the suburban cul-de-sac.

After calling 911, Rothmyer, realizing Bahringer's physical limits, ran to help.

He saw Bahringer's caretaker, who he said seemed to be in shock, in the front yard, and asked him where Bahringer was.

The caretaker, who Rothmyer knows only as Eddie, told him Bahringer was in the back bedroom.

Rothmyer raced around back to find the firefighter, whose identity was unknown Saturday night. They discovered smoke billowing out of the bedroom windows.

"We could hear him inside saying, 'Somebody please help me,' but we couldn't see him," Rothmyer said.

They couldn't get close because of the smoke but suddenly the wind shifted and blew the smoke to the side, leaving a partial opening to allow them access to the window.

The other man managed to grab a rail on Bahringer's hospital-like bed and pull it close to the window.

"We hooked his arms around ours and just yanked on him," Rothmyer said.

Bahringer fell to the ground while Rothmyer moved away to catch his breath.

"I couldn't see what the other guy was doing," he said.

By this time, rescue and fire officials were on the scene.

Bahringer and the caretaker were transported to Roper Hospital, where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

James Island Fire Department Battalion Chief Richard Rodgers said firefighters from James Island, Charleston and the St. Andrews Public Service District responded to the blaze. Rodgers said that when they arrived about half of the house was burning.

Rodgers said that the wife of retired Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas noticed the fire while she was jogging, and banged on the door to see if anyone was inside.

Erica Oblinger, who lives next door to Bahringer, said she heard a sound like a waterfall rushing, then a loud pop before looking out her window to see her neighbor's house ablaze.

People already on the scene "told us to move our cars out of the way," she said. Her house escaped damage but the home to the left of Bahringer's suffered melted siding.

On Saturday afternoon, neighbors and friends were helping salvage what they could from the charred remains of the house, half of which was destroyed, Rodgers said.

Sonia Haulbrooks, Bahringer's neighbor and a fellow church member, said Bahringer was in an induced coma Saturday to help stabilize him. She said Bahringer didn't have any family in the area and thought Bahringer to be in his late 60s or early 70s.

She did not know the caretaker's condition.

An undetermined number of cats which also lived in the home perished, according to Rodgers.

Fire marshals are still trying to determine what caused the fire, which is believed to have started in the garage.

David Quick contributed to this report. Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.