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70-year-old veteran battling cancer runs into burning home to rescue neighbors

He said he ran into the flaming house without hesitation because "all he was thinking about was getting his neighbors to safety."

70-year-old veteran battling cancer runs into burning home to rescue neighbors
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe

A 70-year-old Air Force veteran was a hero for his neighbors when he rushed into their burning home to rescue them from the flames. Marshall Helm from Salem, Illinois, earned the respect and praise of his community when he put himself in the line of danger to save Gary and Kathy Benjamin. According to KMOV, the senior was walking his granddaughter to the bus stop last week when he spotted flames coming through his neighbors' window. Helm, who is currently battling cancer, immediately sprung to action without thinking of his own safety and was able to get the couple out in the nick of time.


Recounting the terrifying incident that occurred around 7:30 a.m on October 21, Helm said, "Bus driver hung out the door and tried to get my attention and he said 'fire, fire, fire.' And I looked over here and sure enough, I saw a fire coming through that window." The former Vietnam-era veteran and B-29 mechanic revealed that he immediately ran to a door on the side of the garage, and upon pushing it open, saw flames climbing a wall. Fortunately, there was just enough space for him to get past them.


Helm rushed past the raging flames into the house, all the while trying to alert his neighbors about the danger. "I was hollering 'fire, fire, you got to get out of here. Anybody in here.' And I kept repeating, 'is anybody in here,'" he said. As it turns out, the Benjamins were still in bed at the time and would've been completely unaware of the imminent danger if not for their brave neighbor. They woke to the sound of his shouting and said that they were a little confused and disoriented at first.


"Oh my God, I didn't know what was happening," said Kathy. By the time the couple got to the hallway, the doorway Helm had used to enter their home was covered with flames, making it impossible for them to use it as an exit. "All I saw was flames coming through the wall," recalled Gary. Fortunately, they managed to find an alternate escape route in time and all three were able to get out of the home through a backdoor safely. They did, however, breathe in a lot of smoke and were in complete shock as the Benjamins' 40-years worth of possessions was lost in the fire.


Despite their loss, they're now grateful to have escaped their burning home and are calling Helm a "hero" for saving them in time. Meanwhile, Helm said he didn't hesitate to run into the burning home because all he was thinking about was getting his neighbors to safety. "Lifesaver, lifesaver is all I can say," said Gary while Kathy added: "Hero, he's our angel." Nicholas Benjamin, the couple's son has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the family recover from the severe damage caused by the fire, where he recounted the tragic accident and thanked Helm for his selfless actions.


"I got the call early morning on the 21st from a neighbor that my parents' house was on fire and wasn't sure if my mother was at work or if my Father had made it out. So I’m rushing down the highway on the phone with 911 in tears telling them that my father with horrible COPD might be trapped in his bathroom or bedroom and that my mother was normally at work but hadn't felt the best recently and may have not gone in," he recalled.  "When I pulled up the firefighter nearest me said that they were under the impression my parents had made it out but they couldn't locate them."


"As I panicked and began to head to neighbors, I heard the familiar yell of my parents who were safely sitting in our neighbor's vehicle with their dog Josie. My eyes continued to fill with tears at the knowledge that my parents were safe. My parents 70-year-old neighbor Marshall Helm and another neighbor attempted to alert my parents from the outside of their home to the fire, but when unsuccessful Marshall forced entry into my parents' home past burning flames, putting his own life at risk, and awoke them and helped them to escape. I can never thank him enough for that. He will always be in our debt. He is a true hero," Nicholas wrote. "And anything used through this GoFundMe reimbursed by insurance or anything not needed will be going to help Marshall and his family financially in any way we can. It's not certain yet but it appears a heating lamp used for baby chickens within a small enclosure in the garage may have been the potential cause of the fire."

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