Taylor honored for saving the lives of two in a house fire

Published 9:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2022

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FREDONIA — A member of the Fredonia Town Council has received a leadership award for heroism in saving the lives of two people this past December.

However, Marty Taylor doesn’t consider himself a hero.

“I was doing what God wanted me to do,” he said at the Tuesday evening meeting of the town council.

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Fredonia Heritage Association President Lucille Johnson presented leadership awards to both Taylor and Five Points Junior High student Amillion Staples, who was recently chosen by her classmates for being the outstanding leader of her school.

Taylor’s life-saving heroics took place on the Sunday before Christmas last year.

“I was driving from my home in Fredonia to my job at Interface in West Point,” he said. “It was around 6 a.m. Eastern time, and I was on County Road 289 heading toward Lanett.”

Just past Lanier Baptist Church, the road dips down a small hill and County Road 213 branches off to the left. It circles back to CR 289 approximately a quarter-mile down the road. There’s a residential area back to the left. It was still dark at the time, and Taylor noticed a house on fire in that area.

“I turned off on 213 and drove up to the house,” he said. “I noticed a car in the garage and a truck in front of the house. I figured some people must be in the house and in immediate danger. A fire was burning in back of the house and was spreading.”

Taylor went up to the house, pounded on the door while shouting “Man, your house is on fire!”

That got homeowner Sammy Walters to the door. His wife, Betty, was still in bed at the time. Sammy got her up, and they ran from the burning home taking only some wrapped Christmas presents under their tree.

The house soon became fully involved in flames, and the roof caved in.

The Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department, assisted by the Fredonia VFD and the Lanett Fire Department battled the blaze, but the house was a total loss.

Once Taylor saw that Sammy and Betty were safe on the outside and that firefighters were on the scene, he continued on to Interface.

“They told me the roof collapsed within 15 minutes after I left,” he said. “The Good Lord put me in a place I needed to be.”

Taylor’s noticing a fire and his quick reaction to see if anyone needed help no doubt saved the lives of two people.

His reaction may well have been the result of having been a firefighter for most of his life.

“I’m 56 and have lived in Fredonia all my life,” he said. “My dad, J.W. Taylor, was the fire chief in Fredonia when I was growing up, and I have been with the department in some way for 45 years.”

He’s been with the Fredonia VFD since he was 11 years old in 1977.

“They now won’t let anyone start out as a firefighter at that age,” he said. “You have to be 18.”

Sammy and Betty are building a new home on CR 213, and Taylor is keeping up with its progress.

“They wanted it to look much like the original home,” Taylor said. “The construction is coming along pretty good. They’ve got it dried in.”

There was something of a Christmas miracle in the December fire. Most importantly, the Walters got out unscathed, taking the wrapped Christmas presents with them. They later discovered a Bible that somehow escaped being burned despite being in the house.

Taylor has been on the Fredonia Town Council for the past six years. Other members include Mayor George Fannings and council members Taylor Arnett, Chris Frickert, Faye Green and John Wilson. Regina Barninger is the clerk.

The council went on record Tuesday evening to support the extension of a six-mill tax that supports local schools and road improvements in Chambers County. Renewal of the tax will be decided by the voters on Tuesday, June 21.