NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Caroline Hanna considers herself lucky to be alive, thanks to a stranger who woke her up when her house caught fire early Tuesday morning.
Hanna and her family spent the day trying to track the man down to say thanks.
That’s where News 8 stepped in.
As a News 8 waited for Hanna to pull up for an interview, a man named Tony Varcak stopped and asked for her. He explained he was the one who first saw the smoke and wanted to check in on her.
Hanna was overjoyed to find out.
“Gosh, let me give you a hug,” she said. “You saved my life and that of my dog.”
“Glad I could help,” said Varcak.
Twelve hours earlier, the two met for the first time under different circumstances.
Varcak was heading to work when he passed Hanna’s home in the North Harbor neighborhood along Morse Reservoir.
It was barely daylight. He thought he saw smoke but it was so faint, he couldn’t tell. So he backed his car up, stopped and rushed to the door, ringing the doorbell until Hanna appeared.
“There was Tony,” she said.
“It was a relief to know somebody was up,” said Varcak.
He asked to call 911 while Hanna and her dog Rascal got out.
“That was so cavalier of him to ask my permission to help me,” said Hanna. “That’s the kind of guy he is; he’s just a wonderful Samaritan.”
Tuesday evening, it was easy to drive by Hanna’s home without realizing there was a fire. There’s just an upstairs window open. A closer look, though, reveals the debris in the front flower beds and bedding materials on the grass.
“Inside it’s a different story,” said Hanna. “You go inside, and you can see something terrible has happened.”
But something far worse could have happened if not for Varcak passing by.
“God puts us here for reasons,” he told Hanna.
The fire started in the attic.
Smoke detectors didn’t go off until firefighters were on scene and Hanna was outside.
A neighbor heard a big boom overnight and thinks lightning struck the house. Firefighters said that’s possible, but the cause for the fire is still under investigation.
Hanna still has her sense of humor, remarking with a laugh as she sees her beautiful flowers on the front porch, “Wish they would have watered them.”
She’s not angry or upset but thankful that the structure she helped design and build in 1992 is still standing.
“I thank God for blessing me and saving my life and that of my little doggie,” she said.
So a reunion Tuesday evening quickly became a conversation between neighbors, not strangers.
“Feels good, glad to see she’s OK, better circumstances than this morning,” said Varcak.
“I’m so glad that you and others were able to locate him today so I can say thanks in person,” said Hanna.
She also wanted to thank her neighbors and the Noblesville firefighters for doing such a good job and taking care of her.
Meanwhile, firefighters told News 8 fires from lightning are extremely rare. They don’t advise putting a smoke detector in your attic because it can be triggered by extreme temperatures.
They also remind people to sleep with doors shut, which can slow a fire down and give crews more time to get to you.