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Man rescues neighbor from house fire 20 years after losing family in blaze

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 2:38 AM CDT
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ROWLEY, Mass. (WCVB) - A Massachusetts man who lost his wife and two young children in a fire 20 years ago is being called a hero for rescuing his neighbor from her burning home.

Mark Collum says he heard a woman screaming for help about 5 a.m. Sunday. He ran outside and saw his neighbor’s house was on fire. After calling 911, Collum rushed into the burning home to get his neighbor, Deb Shanahan, out.

“[There were] flames billowing out the back, smoke filling up the kitchen, and I just grabbed her and took her out. I had a little smoke in my lungs, same with her. So, I just took her outside, and things worked out well, thank God,” Collum said.

Mark Collum rushed into his neighbor's, Deb Shanahan, burning home to rescue her. His actions...
Mark Collum rushed into his neighbor's, Deb Shanahan, burning home to rescue her. His actions are even more remarkable considering he lost his family in a house fire 20 years ago.(Source: WCVB via CNN)

Shanahan suffered minor injuries but will be OK. Rowley Fire Capt. Ron Merry says Shanahan may not have survived if Collum didn’t go into the house to rescue her.

“I’m just glad I was here and did the right thing, that’s all. Just hopefully Deb’s all right and everything worked out well today,” Collum said.

Collum’s actions are even more remarkable considering he lost his family in a house fire 20 years ago.

In January 2001, Collum’s wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, 4-year-old Lindsay and 5-month-old Carly, died after a fire ripped through their Ipswich home. Collum, a commercial fisherman, was not home at the time.

Collum says that since his family’s deaths, he looks at fire differently.

“It still resonates in me, but glad things worked out today,” he said.

In January 2001, Collum’s wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, 4-year-old Lindsay and...
In January 2001, Collum’s wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, 4-year-old Lindsay and 5-month-old Carly, died after a fire ripped through their Ipswich home.(Source: WCVB via CNN)

Merry, who has been a firefighter for more than 45 years, was one of the firefighters who fought the blaze that killed Collum’s wife and children. He says he doesn’t think a lot of people would have rushed in to help Shanahan the way Collum did, especially given his tragic past.

The cause of the fire that gutted Shanahan’s home remains under investigation.

Copyright 2021 WCVB via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.