Son finds house full of smoke, tries to save dad
April 6, 2003
When 25-year-old Jason Smith pulled into the family home in the Gardnerville Ranchos on March 28, he said it was like every other night.
Until he entered a house full of smoke.
“I ran into my father’s bedroom,” he said. “The bed was on fire. I grabbed my father’s arm and tried to pull him out.”
An oxygen tank exploded, pushing him back onto the bedroom door.
“(The explosion) kind of hit me in the face,” he said, leaving flash burns on the side of his face and neck.
Jason, who is hearing impaired, tried to reach his Telephone Device for the Deaf in his bedroom to call 911.
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Overwhelmed by smoke, he ran across Lassen Way to the Pruitt residence.
The Pruitts called 911 and Steve Pruitt, a retired police officer, went into the Smith’s home, but could get no further than Jason, who had rushed back to find his dogs, Mindy and Deja.
“I took Deja across the street and went back to get Mindy. I couldn’t find her. She went back into the house, so I went into the house and got her and Dianne Pruitt took her from me.”
He waited on the front lawn for the fire department to arrive, moments which seemed to last forever, he said.
His dad, 57-year-old Don, had died.
“Don loved being outdoors,” said Karen about her husband. “He was into camping. He loved NASCAR racing up until Dale Earnhardt died.”
Jason was able to retrieve two hats and one cup from his dad’s memorabilia collection.
Jason’s face trembled during an interview Wednesday, just five days after the fire that had demolished the home.
Sadness filled his eyes when asked what his dad meant to him.
“He was everything to him,” Karen said. “He was his best friend and vice versa.”
Jason, a student at Western Nevada Community College, has a 3.5 GPA and is studying animal science.
“He’s taking it the worst. He’s the one helping me cope,” Karen said. “He is a very brave and wonderful son.
Despite being hearing impaired, Jason speaks well, so well, in fact, that he did not learn sign language.
“He’s a very knowledgeable and sensitive young man with a lot of tenacity,” said a family friend, who has known the Smiths for about two years. “He always wants to do more. He’s quite a gentleman.”
Karen and Jason plan to rebuild the family home and then sell it. They lived there for nearly eight years.
“I want to thank hospice for being so loving and caring with my husband, and friends, co-workers and associates for reaching out in our time of grief,” Karen said.
A memorial service for Don Smith will be planned at a later date.