CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — When fire is involved, timing can be the difference between life and death.

A 20-year-old Cascade Township woman owes her life to timing and a local fire chief who was at the right place at the right time.

By the time Cascade Township firefighters were cleaning up from the fire on Ashwood Court Saturday night, it had been a busy night.

Crews from the township’s two fire stations were on the scene of two other emergencies when the fire was called in.

Cascade Township Fire Chief Adam Magers lives nearby and was first one the scene on Ashwood.

Dispatchers were told the occupant of the home was out.

“Once I got there, didn’t see a homeowner or occupant, which typically is not a great indicator,” Magers said.

Back up was still a minute or two away, so Magers opened the home’s front door to size up conditions inside and prepare to direct crews toward the fire when they arrived. Flames and heavy black smoke had already engulfed the second floor.

As Magers began to close the door, he heard a faint noise. It was a cough.

“Having heard that cough, if I hadn’t of heard that, it probably would have been a bad outcome,” Magers said.

Despite not having on his fire resistant turnout gear and even though fire engines carrying water, hoses, ladders and other gear were still on the way, Magers decided to battle through the smoke and flames to the second floor.

“Took a deep breath and just ran up there,” Magers said. “Was able to locate the victim and pull her out.”

The woman, whose name hasn’t been released, was unconscious when Magers pulled her from the fire. EMS crews treated her for smoke inhalation. She was released from the hospital early the next morning.

Moments after she was rescued, firefighters from Cascade, backed up by Lowell and Ada, arrived.

“It was already venting through the bedroom, into the roof, banking down the hallways. It got pretty bad pretty quick. Another minute or two, we probably would have had a recovery instead of a rescue,” Magers said.

The victim had apparently awoke to the home’s smoke alarms going off, called 911 and got out. It’s not clear why she went back in. She may have thought the family dogs had not escaped, even though they had. It’s the kind of confusion that happens during a fire.

“It might not look like there’s a ton of fire, but if you get one or two lungfuls of that bad air … you can go unconscious pretty quick,” Magers said.

The home was heavily damaged, but with the smoke alarms sounding, a call to 911 and a quick decision to run up the stairs, it appears timing was on everyone’s side.

“I’ve been on enough calls where I didn’t get there in time,” Magers said. “Those are the ones that stick with you. So this was a happy ending. Everybody’s grateful that it wasn’t worse.”

Investigators believe the fire was accidental, possibly started by a unattended candle.