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Two injured in Burton Lane house fire

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Neighbors jump in to help

By Stephen Lega

A Lebanon couple were injured as a result of a house fire late Nov. 13 at 353 Burton Lane in Lebanon. One of them may be alive because of their neighbors' quick instincts.

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Ann Simpson, 82, was listed in serious condition as of Monday afternoon at University Hospital in Louisville. Ann Simpson was originally taken to Spring View, but she was transferred to University Hospital by Air Methods.

Her husband, Paul Simpson, 88, was treated at Spring View Hospital. He said he and his wife moved into their Burton Lane home in 1982, the same year they were married.

The fire was started by a space heater, which was left on and caused an oxygen bottle to explode, according to Lebanon Fire Chief Ricky Mattingly. The fire chief said Paul Simpson told him that they normally turn their space heater off before going to bed, but Paul forgot. An oxygen bottle was near the heater.

"When that oxygen bottle blowed up, it was just like a blowtorch," Mattingly said.

Paul Simpson said he and his wife were in bed when she said she heard something. He got up and saw the living room was on fire.

"I never was scared as much in my life," Paul Simpson said.

He said he thought Ann was behind him as he was trying to get out of the house.

Joanne and Otis Taylor live across the street from the Simpsons. Both were awake when the explosion happened.

"My wife heard it," Otis Taylor said. "She was saying her rosary. I was sitting there reading my scriptures."

Joanne called 911 to report the fire, Otis Taylor said. The Lebanon Police Dispatch received that call at 11:44 p.m. Nov. 13.

The Taylors' son, Kenneth, had already gone to bed when he heard his father yelling that the Simpsons' house was on fire.

Otis went across the street where he saw Paul on the patio. Kenneth Taylor ran across the street shortly thereafter, wearing just a pair of shorts. He saw his father and Paul Simpson, but Ann Simpson was still in the house.

"I went inside and crawled on the floor. She was on the floor next to the kitchen table," Kenneth Taylor said.

He said the smoke was so thick that he couldn't see her very well. A chair had fallen where Ann Simpson couldn't get over or around it. Kenneth Taylor said he grabbed her and pulled her closer to the door but wasn't able to get her out.

A Lebanon police officer arrived, and Kenneth said he told the officer that he needed help getting Ann Simpson out.

Officer J.D. Holliday assisted Kenneth in moving her.

"I grabbed her arms and he grabbed her legs," Kenneth Taylor said.

The Taylors took the Simpsons to their house while firefighters worked to put out the flames. Both Simpsons went to the hospital a short time later. Firefighters remained on the scene until 2:23 a.m. Wednesday morning.

"We stayed up until everything was cleared out," Otis Taylor said.

Kenneth Taylor said he saw Paul Simpson Wednesday afternoon, so he knew Paul was doing OK. Kenneth added that he'd spoken with other members of the Simpson family, and he'd learned that Ann Simpson was being treated for burns on her shoulders, arms and legs.

Paul Simpson was recovering at Spring View Friday, but he was in good spirits.

"I feel good right now," he said.

He was also grateful to his neighbors for all their help.

"I sure hope I never get in a place like that again," Paul Simpson said.

Kenneth Taylor said that he's glad he was at his parents' house the night the fire happened. He said he's known the Simpsons since he was a kid, and their families are close.

"I done what I guess anybody else would do," Kenneth Taylor said. "I'm not trying to get any praise for this. I'm just trying to preserve life."

The Lebanon Fire Department, the Lebanon Police, Marion County EMS and the Loretto Fire Department also responded to the scene, and American Red Cross volunteers responded to assist the family.