Local News

Paper Carriers Deliver More Than Just The News

LAKE PLACID - Loud knocking on the front door early in the morning, before the sun comes up, would catch most sleeping residents by surprise. Julie Hernandez had that thought as she was pounding on the door of a Sun 'N Lakes home around 4:45 Wednesday morning. "I seriously thought the guy was going to shoot me," she said. Hernandez was not pulling a prank or attempting anything malicious, but was warning the owners of a fire that was within inches of their home.
"Obviously, he didn't want to open the door," she said. "I wouldn't either if someone's banging on my door at 4:45. So, he cracked the door and I told him, 'You need to get out of the house. There's a fire next door.'" She and her husband, Justin, were in the middle of their Highlands Today paper route in Sun 'N Lakes of Lake Placid when they saw a "wall of flames and smoke." The fire had started in a nearby lot on Sun 'N Lakes Boulevard, possibly out by the road, according to Charles Andrews with the Highlands County Emergency Operations Center. Members of Sun 'N Lakes Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene. "They assumed it was (started) by a discarded ember of some kind," Andrews said, adding it could have been a cigarette thrown out of a car window. When the Hernandezes approached the burning brush, Julie thought the situation was much worse than just a discarded cigarette. "We thought it was a house that had burnt down to the ground and it was the roof that was left burning," she said. "It turned out there was no house there, thankfully." Julie said the fire was so close to the property line, it could have eventually caught the other house on fire. The couple stopped and as Justin dialed 911, she went to the front door and started knocking. "I just started screaming, 'Fire! Fire! Come outside! Fire! Fire!'" Julie said. "Once he opened the door and he saw that I wasn't crazy, he was like, 'Oh my gosh!'" The man got his wife and dog safely outside of the house, according to Julie. The home owners wished not to be interviewed for this story. Once the Hernandezes' good deed was done, it was back to work. "My husband wanted to get back on the road and finish the route because we had to have the papers delivered by 6 and we wanted to make sure that they were there," Julie said. She added that her and her husband, who have been delivering for Highlands Today since Sept. 1, did not see themselves as heroes. Instead, it was all in a day's work. "We saw a fire and called 911," Julie said. "No big deal."

Brad Dickerson can be reached at (863) 386-5838 or bdickerson@highlandstoday.com.