Local Woman Fire

Ronald Hamler stands in front of his fire-gutted home on Concord Turnpike in Lynchburg with the women who saved his life, Debbie Dudley of Appomattox.

Appomattox native Debbie Dudley doesn’t see herself as a hero. To Dudley, she only did what she believed any person ought to do in a time of need: rise to the occasion. 

Dudley, a home health care nurse, is no stranger to empathy that compels her to take action.

On Monday, May 20, at around 6:30 a.m., Dudley was driving home to Appomattox from a visit in Lynchburg.

She didn’t wake up that morning thinking she’d see a home on fire — let alone save someone’s life.

But as she was driving along the Concord Turnpike, Dudley noticed smoke coming from a house.

At first, she surmised that the homeowner was tackling yard work and burning rubbish.

But her gut told her to turn around. Sure enough, the house was on fire. 

Dudley said she looked over and noticed another driver on a cell phone.

“‘Are you calling 911,’ I asked. She said ‘yes.’ So I went over to the door and knocked and knocked and knocked,” said Dudley.

“A lot could have gone wrong,” said Dudley as she recounted the events surrounding her role that day.

It was early morning. Knocking furiously on someone’s door could have come across as a threat, Dudley said.

“What if he thought I was a robber — the way I was beating on his door? What if it would have been gas and tanks would have blowed up? But you know I don’t think about that when I’m trying to help someone. I just go forward,” said Dudley.

A groggy Ronald Hamler, who had been fast asleep and unaware of what was happening to his home, came to the door.

There’s more to this story in the current issue of the Times Virginian newspaper. Pick up a copy or view the full article in the e-edition version with a subscription.