"He saved our lives."
That is what victims of Tuesday's intense fire on South Lehigh Street in Tamaqua said as they described the heroic actions of the modest hero who banged on doors and reunited a lost child with his mother.
While leaving a Fourth of July celebration around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, William Thomas, of 322 West Broad St., was driving down Stadium Hill when he noticed an orange glow in the sky. He didn't know what it was at first, until he came upon the massive fire that was engulfing the homes.
One of the first things Thomas noticed was Amanda Dana, of 11 South Lehigh St., crying as she held her two year old daughter Elizabeth. Dana was terrified because she couldn't find her seven-year-old son Alex.
Dana, who was quick to grab her two-year-old daughter, didn't see her son behind her during their escape. Risking her own life Dana ran back into her burning home looking for Alex. Dana's hair was on fire as she ran back and forth through her home searching for her son.
After calling 911 and without concern for his own safety, Thomas, wearing flip-flops, traveled from one burning home to another – which by then were surrounded by scorching flames – banging loudly on all the neighbors' doors. Thomas chose not to yell fire as he banged on the doors, because he didn't want anyone to panic.
The banging woke William Bowman, of 7 S. Lehigh St., who grabbed his gun.
Thomas, who was burned on his arm, noticed a young boy standing across the street from the fire, crying. He siad his family was still in the fire. Thomas quickly grabbed the boy, Alex, and reunited him with his mother, who had just left her home again in despair after searching desperately for her child.
Thomas said Dana was overjoyed at being reunited with her son and hugged both of them.
Gin Bowman, family member of fire victim William Bowman commented, "If it wasn't for Thomas, my family and others wouldn't be here today."
Thomas is well-known in Tamaqua as DJ Cuzo who performs routinely at a number of local establishments.
Thomas said that he saw firefighters' flashlights through the windows as they searched the burning homes for people, even while the homes were surrounded by flames.
Thomas, who doesn't consider himself a hero, said, "I reacted the way I thought I should." He added, "All the police, firefighters and other emergency responders were the real heroes."