Forest Park family reunites with the man that saved great-grandmother, 2 children from house fire

FOREST PARK, Ohio — “He doesn’t consider himself a hero, but I think everybody does.”

That’s what a Forest Park’s homeowner’s son said about the man that saved his family from a massive fire.

Firefighters from around 10 agencies responded Thursday evening to the home on Riga Court in Forest Park. Units were able to put out the fire quickly, but the home was a complete loss.

Three people were inside the two-story at the time — a woman and her two great-grandchildren. Despite the severity of the blast, they survived thanks to the quick work of D’Anta Hudson, a neighbor unknown to the family at the time.

“This man means everything to me,” said Rodney Thomas, the homeowner’s son.

Thomas reunited with Hudson Friday to speak with WCPO. They met for the first time minutes after the explosion, when Thomas rushed over to thank his family’s hero.

“I had to immediately go over and meet him. I was so grateful to him. As soon as I got here (my mom) let me know who it was,” Thomas said about Hudson. “… I can’t thank this man enough for doing what he did. He really didn’t have to do that.”

Hudson said he feels the same as he did Thursday: he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

“I’m just glad I was here to help, that’s all. It’s a nice neighborhood and everybody comes together,” he said. “I’m just glad I was able to keep the neighborhood together so to speak.”

Hudson lives across the street from Thomas’ mother. He said as soon as he heard and felt the explosion he ran outside. When he heard the woman and children screaming, he ran over to the home, he said.

Hudson told the three to go to the front door, but it was stuck, so he kicked it in and pulled them out just minutes before the second blast.

“The biggest thing was getting trying to get them out was because of the car (in the garage),” Hudson said. “The fire itself didn’t really register. It was more or less if that car blows, then it’s a disaster for real.”

While the explosion remains under investigation, Thomas said his family is almost certain of the cause. He said his mother had a new water heater installed about 40 minutes before the blast.

“I couldn’t think of nothing else it could have been,” Thomas said.

Forest Park Fire Chief Alfie Jones said it was likely a gas explosion, but Duke Energy spokesperson Sally Thelen said techs with the company checked gas lines throughout the neighborhood and all were operating safely, with no leaks detected.

Thelen said the service line to the home that exploded had also been working properly. She added nothing the investigation has revealed so far indicates Duke Energy is at fault in the fire; had there been any leaks Duke was responsible for, multiple homes in the neighborhood would have been impacted.

After Duke Energy’s findings, his investigators are now looking into Thomas’ family’s hunch.

Jones said they’re waiting for the green light from the homeowner’s insurance company to dismantle what’s left of the home to safely enter and continue the investigation.

Thomas hopes investigators find an answer soon. He said while his mother is doing OK, she lost everything in the home and the family is considering launching a GoFundMe to help her recover.

“Not just the material of the house but all the memories you got in the house. It’s hard,” Thomas said. “No matter how much money you get you can never replace those things.”

In the meantime, Thomas said he has a new friend in Hudson, an unknown neighbor turned hero who kept his family in tact — the only irreplaceable treasure he cares about.

“Things could have been so much different if it wasn’t for him so I’m just grateful,” he said.

After Friday’s interview the two had one final exchange.

“I’ll be bringing you over a steak dinner or something,” Thomas told Hudson.

“I’m right here if you ever need me man,” Hudson replied.

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