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We owe our lives to them

Off-duty police officer, neighbor are honored by fire district for heroics during rescue of couple from a burning house
by: Jonathan House, Homer Young shakes the hand of Peter Bradshaw, one of two neighbors that carried him to safety during an early morning house fire. Homer and his wife Irene were proud to look on as Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue honored Bradshaw and Beaverton Police Lt. Kevin O’Keeffe with citations for their valiant, life-saving actions.

Irene and Homer Young were reunited Monday night with the two men who saved their lives.

Beaverton Police Lt. Kevin O'Keeffe and Peter Bradshaw rushed to their neighbors' aid early Sept. 14 after discovering a fire blazing at the Youngs' home, 7070 S.W. Kaufman Drive.

'We've got the best neighbors in the world,' said a grateful Homer Young. 'If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here now.

'We owe our lives to them. We had some guardian angels looking out for the whole bunch of us that day.'

The Youngs were given the chance to thank O'Keeffe and Bradshaw prior to an awards ceremony Monday night at the joint meeting of the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue board and Beaverton City Council.

The fire district presented citations for valiant, life saving actions to both O'Keeffe and Bradshaw, who worked together to get the Youngs safely out of their home before firefighters arrived to battle the early morning fire.

Something was wrong

At about 5:30 a.m. on that day, O'Keeffe woke up to a strong smell of smoke.

'The smell was strong enough that I knew it was not normal smoke,' recalled the off-duty police officer. 'I got up thinking that something was wrong with my house, but when I looked outside, I saw smoke rolling over from the next block over that was dark and heavy.'

After waking his wife Maggie, O'Keeffe had her dial 911 before they rushed to their car to see if they could help.

'When we drove around the block, I was surprised that no one else was out there,' O'Keeffe said.

As Maggie O'Keeffe rushed to alert neighbors, her husband began banging on the Youngs' door.

About the same time, joggers flagged down Bradshaw, who was on his way to work.

'I was driving a different route to work when the joggers asked me if I had a cell phone,' Bradshaw said. 'I looked over and saw the flames.

'I started driving over to it and saw Kevin there.'

As the two contemplated busting in the door, Irene Young responded to the pounding on her door.

'Panic set in when I heard the banging,' Irene Young said. 'I went to the door thinking that someone was trying to break in. I didn't realize my house was on fire.'

When Irene opened the door, O'Keeffe said he could see flames crawling up the walls in the backside of the home near the kitchen.

It was about that time that Irene heard 'a loud hissing and roar.'

As shock started to set in, Irene anxiously said that she needed to get her dog, a bag of her knitting by the door and her 80-year-old husband, who was still in bed and dependent on his wheelchair.

O'Keeffe rescued the Youngs' toy dachshund Rambo, grabbed the bag of knitting and entered the burning home again with Bradshaw to carry Homer out to safety.

'Luckily the bedrooms were in the far end of the house away from the fire,' O'Keeffe said. 'It was a good thing that Peter was there too.

'We pretty much were on automatic - get in and get out.'

When Engine 66 from the Brockman Road Fire Station arrived, firefighters found heavy smoke and began attacking the flames from the outside first, knocking down the bulk of the fire.

About 20 firefighters responded to the scene.

'The fire department not only saved our house, they saved our neighborhood from that fire,' Homer Young said. 'We're just so thankful to everybody.'

Lives saved

Being able to see their neighbors recognized by the fire district for their valiant efforts, meant a great deal to the Youngs.

'I think it's fantastic,' Irene Young said. 'How do you tell someone thank you?'

For Bradshaw and O'Keeffe, seeing the Youngs was enough.

'I'm just glad to see you guys again and sorry it's taking so long for you to get back into your home,' Bradshaw told the couple.

O'Keeffe agreed.

Fire district officials praised both men for their heroic actions.

'It is always a privilege to serve a community where citizens have the courage to step forward and help their neighbor when an emergency arises,' said Fire Chief Jeffrey Johnson. 'Clearly, these two men took decisive actions that resulted in lives saved.'