County officer saves woman, dog from burning home

A Jackson County Sheriff’s Department officer recently saved a local woman and her dog from a burning home in spectacular fashion.

For Kayla Dishman of Seymour, the story began on the morning of May 6 while she was sleeping.

The 33-year-old suffers from medical conditions that make it difficult for her to sleep. Because of this, she takes medicine that helps her fall asleep. In this instance, though, it was almost too effective.

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“It’s like I’m dead when I sleep,” Dishman said.

Dishman’s registered support dog, Axel Rose Bannister, was forced to pull her out of bed by her hooded sweatshirt to get her to wake up.

Once awake, Dishman quickly realized what was going on and sought safety from the fire.

“If it wasn’t for my dog, I definitely wouldn’t be alive today,” she said. “By the time he got me awake, the flames had reached the dining room, and my only option was to go out onto the roof. There were flames going everywhere.” Dishman placed a call for help, which made its way to Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Officer Aaron Wilkins at around 5:20 a.m. that day. He was the first officer to make it to the scene.

Dishman waited on the roof for a few minutes until Wilkins arrived, but to her, it felt like much longer. “It felt like an eternity, but it was probably no longer than 3 to 4 minutes,” she said.

Upon arriving at the home at 8198 N. County Road 925E, Wilkins saw Dishman on the roof and told her she would need to jump before the roof caved in. ”You have to jump. You’re going to fall through the roof if you don’t,” he told her.

Dishman initially was too afraid to jump but eventually was persuaded to do so after Wilkins told her he would catch her after she came down.

Wilkins estimated the roof was about 9 or 10 feet from the ground below.

After Dishman landed in Wilkins’ arms, she attempted to re-enter the home to get her dog, which was trapped on the bottom level of the home. She brought the dog onto the roof with her, but he went back inside after she jumped.

Wilkins stopped her from going back inside, instead re-entering the home himself and letting the dog free.

“I was able to get the back door open,” Wilkins said. “I crawled in there just a few feet. I was yelling for the dog. About the time the smoke was getting too thick for me, I decided to back out. That’s when I saw the dog run out behind me.”

After Dishman and her dog were brought to safety, members of the Redding Township Volunteer Fire Department arrived and began to put the fire out, a process Dishman believes took around 15 minutes.

Dishman compared the situation to a dramatized scene that would be in a movie or television show. “You know, you see this stuff in movies or on TV, and it’s just one of those things people can never expect,” she said “I’m still in disbelief.”

For Wilkins, he didn’t feel the same way at the time. “I think it sounded cooler than what it felt like in the moment,” he said. “I was just doing what anyone else would do in that situation.”

Dishman’s brother, Billy Dishman, also is an officer with the sheriff’s department. “I guess what made it cool was that she’s a family member of my shift partner. She’s my shift partner’s sister, so that was kind of cool,” Wilkins said.

It was only Dishman and her dog in the home at the time. She said there are typically six children staying in the home, but they weren’t there at the time. The fire also would have put them all at risk.

“Had the kids been in the house, there’s no way I would’ve been able to get them out,” she said.

Dishman said those investigating the fire believe it was started by a short in her refrigerator.

Dishman rented the home but was unable to have renter’s insurance due to multiple factors, including the home being located in a floodplain and having a wood stove.

Because of this, Dishman said she lost everything in the fire.

She currently is staying in an apartment in Seymour, which she says is not as accommodating to the size of her family as the previous home. “We went from a two-story house to a two-bedroom apartment with six kids,” she said.

Wilkins’ night didn’t end with this incident. Within 30 minutes of receiving Dishman’s call, he received word of a shooting in Seymour, which was later discovered to be the murder of Ryan Joseph Ross. “It was very crazy because of course, going from making sure everyone is out of a burning home and then you’re responding to where someone has been shot, it was pretty eventful,” he said.

Wilkins said the danger of these two scenarios put things into perspective for him, making him reflect on the danger and importance of his job.

“The calming down and bringing the day to an end is knowing that I was able to help; however, going from a fire to a shooting, even though someone’s life was taken, that’s something that you definitely think about,” he said. “You think about going home and giving your kids a hug and spending time with them because you never know.”

Wilkins left his previous job with Enterprise Products for his current role as a county officer, something he said many questioned. He, however, does not regret the decision. ”I’ve had people tell me I was stupid to leave that job to pursue a career in law enforcement, but there’s not a day that goes by where I put on that uniform and respond to a call, whether it’s a VIN inspection or saving someone from a burning house, where I don’t feel like I’ve got the greatest job in the world,” he said.

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