Former firefighter dies in house fire trying to save homeowner's dogs

ZINC, Ark. - Neighbors said 28-year-old Cody Ralston was a former volunteer firefighter and a good friend to everyone.

Johnny Lawson, Ralston's neighbor, said, “You ask him for help, he’s there. Always there. He’s gonna be really missed around here.”

The Boone County sheriff said Tuesday a fire broke out at a mobile home on Rogers Avenue in Zinc.

Neighbors said Ralston was at a house next door when he heard about the fire and came running in to save the dogs inside.

Lawson said Ralston lived in the mobile home, but the dogs weren’t his.

“The woman who owns the house, it was her pets. She had several dogs in there, and none of them survived," he said.

Lawson said he tried to put out the fire and get Cody out, but he couldn’t.

“All the time black smoke was rolling out the side of the house," he said.

The Bergman fire chief said this was the first time his firefighters had to recover a body from a burning house and said you should never go into a burning building for any reason.

Chief Nick Gahlbeck said, “Even if it’s your loved one or your pets that which you love. It’s never a good idea because something can change so fast where you can’t get out ever again.”

The chief said it’s a good idea to have an escape plan for your family if you’re inside when a fire starts.

“Either go out through a window or a door and then go to a meeting spot," Gahlbeck said.

He said if you’re near a pet, grab it if you can, but if not, there’s not much you can do.

Gahlbeck said, “A doggy door could be useful, but it’s probably going to be too scared, and it’s going to go hide probably underneath a bed, which is kind of a good thing to do depending on how fast we can get there and how fast we can put the fire out.”

If you go back into the burning building to save a life, you risk losing your life too.

“A lot of people die not because of the fire, but from smoke inhalation," he said.

Lawson said he'll never forget Cody and his courage.

He said, "We’re going to miss him a lot. You can say whatever you want to him there. He always laughed about it he always joked about it. God got an angel.”

The sheriff's office reports the cause of the fire is still under investigation. A Bergman firefighter was also injured during the fire, but he's now OK.

Chief Nancy Winslow at Timber Knob Volunteer Fire Department, where Ralston was a volunteer firefighter said in a message, "He was a good fireman and was always there when we needed him."