PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Fire officials said the fire started at about 8 p.m. Monday at an apartment complex off Massalina Drive.
Residents of the complex smelled smoke and called 911. One man in the downstairs unit, who neighbors and family identify as 69-year-old Tim Muth, was trapped behind his front door until his neighbor helped to break it down.
“His neighbor John knew that this was bad, he started to grab his stuff but then he heard Tim hollering at his front door ‘John, John help me open this door, help me out!'” said Sanford Williams, another neighbor.
When firefighters and EMS arrived, they immediately began providing medical care.
“I saw Tim- there on the porch with two firemen working over him, they did not stay very long. They moved him because the smoke was pure black and flowing like a river out,” said Williams.
Muth was taken to Ascension Sacred Heart Bay and then eventually life-flighted to a hospital in Augusta, Georgia.
“The first arriving officer found the occupant right there at the front door so we were able to remove him pretty quickly from the structure,” said Panama City Fire Chief, David Collier.
Neighbor and friend of 52 years, Sanford Williams said he prays his friend Tim makes it through his injuries.
“Out of this if Tim can get his strength and know everyone loves him this could turn around to be a good thing,” said Williams.
Fire officials say it took around an hour and a half to get the flames under control.
“The complexity of the fire took us a little bit longer than it normally would have,” said Collier.
Collier said although there were multiple items in the house that could’ve started the fire, they are still investigating the cause.
“It’s under investigation right now. We’re just trying to determine what caused the fire. But there were quite a bunch of items and personal effects in the home that did make our operations more difficult,” said Chief Collier.
Family members say Muth is now recovering from burns on over 70% of his body.