EUREKA TOWNSHIP — “Hero” was heard throughout the night as word spread of how an elderly couple was rescued from a fully involved house fire.
The Greenville Department of Public Safety was dispatched to the home of Vern and Peggy Wheeler at 10325 Stakes Road in Eureka Township at about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday after neighbors saw smoke and fire coming from the home and called 911.
However, it was the Wheeler’s neighbor, Greg Ackley, who ran into the house to find the couple and pull them to safety.
“They almost didn’t make it out,” Ackley said.
Ackley saw the fire from his home across the street and ran to the couple’s aid without a second thought.
Many people at the scene of the fire called Ackley a hero, however, that is not how he wants to be remembered for what he did.
“I was just doing what I was suppose to do,” said Ackley of getting both Vern and Peggy out of the house. “I don’t think of myself as a hero. I did what anyone would have done. I did what was right.”
Ackley was sitting in his home when he noticed a small fire in the Wheelers’ garage. At first he thought thy were just burning something until he saw the fire go up the side of the wall. He said he ran to the left side of the home to try to get inside. As he approached the door, Peggy opened the door and Ackley got her out of the home.
Ackley then went inside and pulled Vern from his walker to get him outside.
“He tried to go back in after something,” Ackley said. “But I just grabbed him and we choked our way out (of the house).”
The Wheelers had an older cat named Slick who was unaccounted for during the fire. Ackley noted that might have been what Vern turned to look for.
“The fire was coming at us and the house was filling with black smoke,” Ackley explained. “I had to get him out of there.”
Vern said he could not walk without his walker, which was left behind in the home, and made it out because of Ackley.
Ackley has known the Wheelers for many years and considers them close friends.
Both Vern and Peggy Wheeler were evaluated by emergency medical technicians on scene, but did not suffer serious injuries.
Department of Public Safety Director Michael Pousak said the cause of the fire is currently unknown.
Firefighters were still putting out hot spots on the scene until almost 10 p.m.
“It became a defensive fire,” Pousak said. “We didn’t want to put anybody inside because by the time we set up and got going, it was already going and spreading in through the house. We knew there was no life safety issues in there so we set up on the outside and (approached it as) a defensive fire, trying to stop the progress (of the fire).”
Belding and Grattan Township fire departments assisted at the scene along with the Montcalm County Advance Life.