Letter carrier Wayne LaFrance does not consider himself a hero for checking for people inside a burning house earlier this year.
The U.S. Postal Service employee was delivering mail on his usual route at about 8:45 a.m. April 12 on what began as a routine day. After parking his truck, LaFrance was delivering mail when his day became anything but ordinary.
“I saw smoke coming from a house [in the 2200 block of South Maple Street]. I ran to the house and started knocking on the door,” LaFrance said. “After no response, I made my way to the windows and knocked and looked to see if anyone was inside. … Then I returned to the door, opened it, hollered ‘Is anyone home?’ and called the fire department.”
The firefighters arrived, found no one inside the house and extinguished the fire, LaFrance said. The firefighters asked LaFrance if he saw any person leaving the area before he spotted the smoke. He did not.
With 10 years experience working as a letter carrier, including the last four years on the same route, LaFrance said that he knows his customers. Furthermore, he said that any letter carrier would have responded as he did. And he does not consider himself a hero.
“If I see someone in help, I help. I consider myself a mailman doing his job,” LaFrance said. “I did not do anything no one else would not have done. I was taking care of my customers. … [My actions in this instance] are part of the scope of the job.”
LaFrance was awarded a pin from Roger Bledsoe, the national business agent at the National Association of Letter Carriers, according to Branch 240 Union President Kevin R. Jackson.
“I am very proud of Wayne. He did a heroic action,” Jackson said. “We are thankful to have Wayne as a letter carrier and in the union.”
By his quick response, the firefighters were able to confine the blaze to one room, Jackson said.
Letter carriers adhere to a high level of professionalism and service, Jackson said. They care for their customers, and keep an eye out for clues that someone may be in distress, he said.
The Postal Service recognizes letter carriers who lend assistance to people in need beyond the call of duty, Jackson said. Other letter carriers have assisted other people in emergencies, he said.
“We feel it is importance to recognize those courageous acts,” Jackson said.
The Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department determined the blaze was arson, Assistant Fire Marshall Lt. Randy Compton said. The blaze was determined to have started near air conditioning unit ducts.
“There was no type of ignition source,” Compton said. “Therefore, I investigated it as an intentionally set fire.”
Pine Bluff Police Detective Jerry Lambert and Compton investigated the fire and identified a suspect, Compton said.
William Courtney II*** was arrested in connection with the alleged arson and is waiting to go to court, Compton said.
Compton said he appreciates any person who reports a fire and otherwise assists first responders. Fire Chief Shauwn Howell said he is thankful to LaFrance for springing into action.
“I appreciate his civic duty and thank anyone who assists with quick actions,” Howell said. “I am sure the homeowner is also appreciative.”
***This article has been corrected from its original version, which included the incorrect name of the suspect.