Richmond first responder learns his mother’s home is on fire while on the job


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A woman, who is legally blind, was able to make it out of her home safely after it went up in flames on Monday afternoon in Richmond’s Northside.

It’s likely every first responders worst nightmare, an emergency call coming in, only to recognize the victim’s name and address. That is what happened to Ricky Johnson, a member of Metro Richmond Flying Squad, on Monday as his childhood home went up in flames.

The view from Carolina Avenue around 2 p.m. on Monday was something out of a movie, residents described to 8News.

Flames were seen shooting through second story windows and thick smoke poured from the roof of a home, owned by Vivian Johnson.

“This is all I had left,” cried Johnson.

Johnson says she was folding laundry when she felt heat and heard loud popping noises.

Ricky Johnson, Vivian’s son, assists Richmond Fire and responds to scenes with firefighters to make sure they have what they need to put out fires and save lives.

On Monday, he saw his mother’s address come across the scanners and fire engines called to her home. Ricky says that’s when he jumped into action and drove to his childhood home.

“First thing I was worried about was is she still inside,” Ricky told 8News. “The most hurtful feeling is knowing it’s your mom and I couldn’t get in contact with her. I’m at work and I’m responding to my mother. We go out here and try to save lives and help people on a daily basis, but when it’s your own, it really hurts.”

Johnson is 66-years old and legally blind. She told 8News her intuition kicked in and she felt her way to the front door, escaping before fire crews arrived.

Richmond Fire has ruled the blaze as electrical and says it likely started in the guest room.

On Tuesday, during our interview with Johnson, she sat on the porch in sorrow. She shared that she had lived in the home since 1970, when she was just 11-years-old.

Going on to say, she raised her children in the home and it was gifted to her by her parents when they passed.

“I’m so sorry mom and dad,” Johnson sobbed. “I feel like I let you down.”

Johnson couldn’t find the words to express her pain to 8News today, but uttered she feels ‘lost’. Her family home is now gutted and her memories from childhood to now are burned and covered in soot.

Ricky allowed 8News to walk into the home and our reporter witnessed burned photo albums, windows kicked in, the roof caved in and items melted.

“When you see your mom crying and you can’t stop your mom from crying, that hurts,” Ricky told 8News.

Ricky said he is doing his best to sort through the damage and lift his mother up; adding that he is concerned about her mental health.

“It’s my responsibility to try and make myself whole again,” Ricky said.

Ricky has served the community for decades. He has recently started working with Richmond Fire, but for years he has been working to curb violence in the city, providing safe places for children, and operating his foundation to help city residents.

Ricky is now asking for the community’s help. He says his mother does have insurance on the home, but she has lost everything, including her vital medical equipment. She needs clothes (size 2X), shoes (size 6) and a mattress to sleep on. If you would like to help or donate call Ricky at 804-774-0099.

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