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Search for stolen car ends in a fire rescue

// News // DC // VA // Bristol
SALTVILLE, Va. -

What started as a search for a stolen vehicle after a car chase and manhunt ended up with three people's lives saved from a fire in Saltville, Virginia.

A home destroyed, now covered in ashes, is nothing compared to what could've happened early Friday morning in Saltville, Virginia on Perryville Road.

Neighbor Mildred Mabe told us she woke up sometime after 4:00 a.m. when she heard sirens.

"The flames were up higher than the tree," said Mabe. "It was coming out the windows and the door in the front."

But it was Virginia State Police trooper Philip Battel who saw the flames first, and it was just by chance. He's normally stationed in Washington County, Virginia.

Battel said he was helping Saltville police and Smyth County deputies search a nearby field for a stolen car involved in a police chase earlier that day, when he noticed an orange glow and went to check it out.

"I mean, it's fully engulfed; the chimney, the ceiling, the roof. [I] banged on the door; no answer," Battel remembered.

That's when Battel actually went inside the home and started yelling. He said three people were asleep and unaware of the fire blazing around them.

"A gentleman approaches us in the hallway from his bedroom and is like, 'what's going on? What's going on?' And I said, 'Look around! Your house is on fire!'," said Battel.

Police said all three residents and two pets made it out of the fire's danger.    

It's an outcome Battel fears could have ended differently if he didn't happen to be nearby trying to help crack another case.

"I just look back and think… the chances of me being there at that exact time was pretty rare, I would think," Battel added.

Because even with the loss of a home, it's lives that can't be replaced.

We checked with the Saltville Volunteer Fire Department and learned firefighters believe the flames could have started in the chimney, though no official cause has been determined.

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