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Neighbor helps woman, 90, rescue husband from flames

Frank Devaull is normally working each mid-day, but on Thursday the 60-year-old handyman came home to cool off for a short while.

The elderly woman living next door in the 5500 block of Geddes Avenue was glad he did.

Luella Crosby, 90, came over and quietly asked if he could lend a hand.

There was smoke inside her house and she wanted to get her husband, Alfred, outside. The couple had lived in the west-side home near Lake Como since 1944.

"I just thought she had a little kitchen fire to put out," Devaull said. "But when I got in there, it was billowing.

"The flames were standing up and it was smoking.

"It got hot quick."

But 92-year-old Alfred, a double-leg amputee with other medical problems, was stuck in a hospital bed.

Later, Luella proudly recalled how Devaull rescued her husband.

"Frank had him up in his arms and carried him out," she said.

But Devaull said he struggled to help his neighbor, and the man's wife was herself a hero.

"That lady is something else," Devaull said. "She's tough! I said, 'Baby, you got to get out of here.' But she was determined to stay there until he was out of that house.

"I don't think she panicked ... but I did!"

Devaull's stress grew when he couldn't pull Alfred free of the bed. He then saw that the elderly man was tethered by a catheter.

"I was dragging the bed with him," he said. "I starting pulling on (the catheter), but it's tough. You can't break it with the naked hand."

Devaull said he needed Luella's help to breach the plastic tube.

"I said, 'Baby, get something to cut it,' and that lady went back into the kitchen quick," Devaull said. "She came back with a knife and she cut it. By then, flames were going up to the ceiling."

Devaull finally got Alfred out the door, but that was tough, too.

"He's an amputee, but he's not a small man," Devaull said. "But he never hollered and he never cried. I don't think he ever got scared."

Devaull said he was relieved to see firefighters, who quickly extinguished the flames.

Alfred suffered "very minor smoke inhalation," said Lt. Kent Worley, fire department spokesman.

Because of his age and existing medical issues, he was taken to Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital "simply as a precaution," Worley said.

The fire was still under investigation Thursday, but investigators were checking to see if it might have resulted from an electrical problem, Worley said.

Luella had told firefighters that power had flickered off and on several times Thursday morning.

"The power had just come back on again when the fire was noticed," Worley said.

The blaze was confined to a bedroom, but smoke filled the home, making it unlivable, Worley said.

Consequently, Red Cross officials and a "large extended family" were helping the couple.

"I'm just glad Frank was at home," Luella said later surrounded by loved ones. "My husband would have burned because I couldn't get him out.

"Frank -- he's all right."

But Devaull declined to take credit

"Every morning," he said, "when I say my prayers, I say 'God, please give me the strength to help somebody, if I ever come across somebody in that position.'

"Well, today he did."

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