Police & Courts

Eighty-year-old credited with saving son's home by towing away burning car

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 11, 2019 10:20 am

TAYLOR, Mo. -- Shannon Haerr of Taylor had words of praise Friday for his father, Norman Haerr, who came to the rescue Thursday afternoon when a car caught fire while parked just a few feet from Shannon Haerr's attached garage.

Norman Haerr, who lives nearby, spotted smoke and rushed over. He then used a chain attached to a pickup truck to pull the burning car away from Shannon Haerr's house.

"It hit me this morning that an 80-year-old man with a newly replaced knee did something in 10 minutes that saved our home. He just happens to be my dad," Shannon Haerr said. "I'm sure my dad's quick thinking saved my home from totally burning up. He's the hero."

The story begins around 2:30 p.m. Thursday when Shannon Haerr's 17-year-old daughter, Hattie, a senior at Palmyra High School, came home after school. She parked her 2001 Buick Regal about four feet from the garage door and went inside.

Within a matter of minutes the car's engine compartment was on fire.

Norman Haerr, who lives in a house about 150 feet from Shannon Haerr's house, was at home rehabilitating from knee replacement surgery when he spotted smoke outside the window.

"I was by the kitchen sink doing knee bends and I said, ‘What is all that smoke doing next door?' I could hardly see Shannon's house," Norman said in an interview.

Norman called Shannon's cellphone. "There's smoke coming from your house," Norman told Shannon. But Shannon wasn't home at the time. He was at Palmyra Middle School, where he works as a computer teacher. That's when Norman learned from Shannon that the only one home was Hattie.

"She had no idea her car was on fire," Shannon said.

Norman Haerr immediately headed over to Shannon Haerr's house. He was in his stocking feet because he didn't want to take the time to put on shoes.

"I took the pickup over because I'm not walking so good yet," he said. "That car was parked within five feet of the house's garage, and it was flaming right in the front."

Meanwhile, Norman's Haerr's wife, Sally, called their son-in-law, Scott Wegman, who operates a business from another nearby house in a small cluster of homes located near the former Taylor Airport, also known as Haerr Field.

Wegman rushed out with a fire extinguisher just as Norman pulled up in his pickup truck.

"He (Wegman) was keeping the flames at bay while my dad went to get a chain" from a nearby shed, Shannon said. "Then Scott hooked a chain to the car, and my dad drove the pickup and pulled the car away from the house."

Around that time Hattie Haerr ran out of the house after calling the Palmyra Fire Protection District. She then sat with Norman Haerr in his pickup truck until the volunteer firefighters arrived. She snapped a quick photo of her car burning up.

"The Palmyra Fire Department did a real good job and put out the fire quickly," Shannon Haerr said.

Fire Chief Gary Crane said if Norman Haerr hadn't pulled the burning car away from the house when he did, "we could have had the house gone, too," because the fire likely would have spread.

"The car was fully involved when we got there," Crane said.

No one was injured in the fire, but the car was a total loss.

Hattie's backpack was in the car at the time of the fire.

"I dug through the wreckage (Friday) morning and was able to salvage her driver's license," Shannon Haerr said.

Hattie Haerr said she's glad her grandfather came to the rescue and pulled the burning car away from the house.

"It could have been a lot worse," she said.

Norman Haerr said he's grateful he spotted the smoke through a window.

"If I hadn't been home, that whole house would have gone," he said. "Thank the Lord I was at the right place at the right time."

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