A dry mouth from prescription medication woke Walter Lewis of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, up in the middle of the night. As he started to go back up to the second floor, he heard his five-month-old American bulldog, Rock, making noise.
As he went back downstairs to investigate, Rock suddenly came bounding up the stairs- something he never ever did. That's when Lewis knew something was wrong.
He told Wane.com:
“By the time I made it to the bottom of the stairs, he was running up the stairs and he doesn’t ever come up the stairs no matter what. I think that was his way of telling me we’ve got to go back up.... I see fire, and I immediately turn and start yelling for my wife to get up and get the kids up.”
Lewis immediately got his entire family up and headed toward the roof, but the ordeal had only begun to test the mettle of the father of four:
“I always keep all of my stuff- my phone, my knife, and everything- in my pocket. So, I took it out, had to cut the plastic off, and pried the window open and kicked the screen out. I got everybody out on the roof and threw a blanket out there so we wouldn’t slip off of the roof, and I start screaming for help.”
But help wasn't coming soon enough, and Lewis, despite having a crippling fear of heights, knew he had to act:
"Me being scared of heights and having my issues with my body, I just said forget it and thought about my family. So, I jumped off of the roof. It knocked the wind out of me, but I had to get the ladder. I went and got my ladder, put it back, and climbed up there.
I had to carry my 9-month-old in my teeth, by his little sleeper. I had my daughter wrapped up around my arms, and I had to walk down. I had her hold her brother, and I went up there and got my other daughter. Then, I went up and got my wife. I tried to get my dog, but he just disappeared in the black smoke"
The loss their beloved family dog is hits hard for Lewis, but also knows that Rock died helping save his family:
“I called him my therapy dog. He also kept me on my toes and always wanted to play with me or run around. It’s crazy because he was like part of my family, he was like one of my kids.”
But as amazing as his family's dramatic rescue was, Lewis refuses to call himself the one thing he certainly is — a hero.
“That’s a big word to use for me when I’m not a hero. I’m just an ordinary person that would help anybody, but this happened to be the time when I helped my own family. I live to protect my family, and that’s what matters. Just like Rock, he lived to protect us.”
Fire trucks arrived and worked for more than 20 minutes to extinguish the flames, but much of the house was seriously damaged. The Lewises had only just moved into their house, a fixer-upper, in August. Lewis, who works fixes house professionally, rebuilt much of it himself.
Lewis's family are safe and no injuries were reported.