Blaze inspires Berrien woman to fight fires - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Blaze inspires Berrien woman to fight fires

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May 8, 2008

Ray City - A tragic house fire led to a new career for a Berrien County woman.

One year ago, her house burned, and she was so impressed by the firefighters who came to her aid, that she joined their ranks.

Michelle Sawner-Benton is the newest addition to the Ray City Fire Department.  "I just decided it was something I wanted to do because I love helping people and I can't think of a better way to do it," she says.

And her decision to join the team literally happened overnight.

Thursday is the first anniversary since her home on Main Street burned.  "By the time we got to the fire, the house was engulfed,"  says Ray City Firefighter David Gilbert.  "It was a pretty bad fire and we were fortunate no lives were lost."

"We were lucky everyone made it out safe. We lost two animals and possessions but stuff is stuff," Michelle adds.

The experience inspired her to join the team.  "She wanted to thank us for the work that we had done and wanted to get involved in the community," says Firefighter Rick Pennock.

Michelle's home is now rebuilt. But she says her first hand experience helps her every time she answers a call.

"I know what they are going through and I can say, 'Hey, I've been there' and give them hope that you stuff is gone but stuff is stuff and it really brings to light what's important in our lives," Michelle says.

She says the community helped get her through the hard time in her life and now she looks forward to returning the favor.

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