OKLAHOMA CITY – Sgt. Darren Watkins, with the 2120th Engineer Battalion, 90th Troop Command, Oklahoma Army National Guard, exhibited Army values when he selflessly saved an older woman and her four dogs from a house fire Feb. 29.
Watkins, a sheriff’s deputy with Wagoner County, began his shift the evening of Feb. 28 after a daddy-daughter dance with his youngest child. His shift was like most others; he answered routine calls, filled out paperwork and performed other typical duties. He had no idea that by sunrise, he would be a hero.
Toward the end of his shift, at about 4 a.m., Watkins was dispatched to a fire in a vacant house. After arriving, he quickly realized the main threat was the neighboring house, which was also ablaze and occupied by an elderly widow.
“I knew she was in there, and I knew she needed to get out,” Watkins said. “I really wasn’t thinking of anything else.”
He quickly entered the home and located the woman. After attempting to collect photos of her family and other belongings, Watkins began leading her toward the safest exit. She then tried to get to her vehicle through the garage, where the fire was the most intense.
“I had to hold the door closed pull her away from the door leading to the garage,” Watkins said. “The firefighters later said if she would have opened that door, the fire in the garage would have flashed into the living room and possibly burned both of us.”
The woman was concerned about her dogs, but Watkins assured her they needed to get to safety. He then firmly wrapped his arms around her and steered her toward the safest exit. Watkins, the woman and her four dogs made it out of the burning house just in time.
“As we walked a safe distance away, we heard the garage explode behind us,” Watkins said.
“I have had some crazy calls in the past, but this was probably the craziest with the best outcome,” Watkins said. “She did lose her house, but we were able to get her out of the residence with her dogs.”