Neighbor’s quick actions save Holland women in house fire

Ottawa County

Cousins Linda Johnson and Tina DeRidder reunite with the neighbor that saved them.

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A house fire in Holland killed the owner’s pets and destroyed the home, but two women sleeping inside were able to survive thanks to some quick action by a neighbor.

“By the time we got out the smoke was so thick you couldn’t see in front of your face,” said Linda Johnson, who was sleeping inside her trailer at Waverly Shores. 

Neighbors say smoke detectors were going off and flames shooting out, but cousins Linda Johnson and Tina DeRidder were sound asleep Thursday morning.

Until pounding at the front door woke them up. 

“Normally I would leave my door closed, but I left it open that night and he just relentlessly kept pounding on the door and I finally heard him, and when I did I just immediately pounced up and went to the door and he went to grab me and said your house is on fire, get out,” she said.

A photo of the fire damage.

That neighbor was Louis Duarte. Duarte says around 2 a.m. he got an urge to go out and smoke and that’s when he quickly noticed the orange glow. Without any shoes or shirt he says he ran down the street.

“We wouldn’t be here,” said Johnson, commenting on his quick action.  

On Saturday night the women were reunited with the man they call their angel on earth. 

“Oh my God that’s him,” said DeRidder. 

The women got him a cross necklace to thank him for his heroic actions. Duarte says he’s no hero, just a neighbor who saw a need for help and reacted.

With one selfless act these strangers have become much more.

“Now, well it’s like a tight knit family,” said Duarte as he teared up. 

“You will always be a part of our hearts forever and ever, I hope you know that,” said Johnson. 

The ladies lost all three cats in the fire. A family member gifted them a puppy which they named Louis. For now, they are living at a near-by hotel. They plan to move back into the lot when they get a new trailer. 

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