'I was afraid I wasn't going to make it:' Cavalier County deputies rescue woman from burning home

Two Cavalier County deputies had to crawl around underneath thick smoke and flames for six minutes to rescue the 70-year-old woman.

Flames shoot out of Donna Kartes' Langdon home. Two Cavalier County sheriff's deputies rescued her.
Contributed / Cavalier County Sheriff's Department

LANGDON — Brave and fearless. Two words a woman and her family are using to describe the heroic actions of two Cavalier County Sheriff's deputies who rescued her from her burning home.

"It was very scary. I was afraid I wasn't going to make it," said Donna Kartes.

Kartes' heroes are Cavalier County Sheriff's deputies John Metzger and Russell Anthony.

"It was on us to make it happen and get her out," Metzger said.

They were both coming on duty Friday night, March 24, when Donna's neighbor in Langdon called 911 to report her house was on fire.


Deputies were unsure it anyone was inside when they arrived on scene.

"The second John kicked that door open the smoke just poured out. You couldn't see. It's a relatively small house and you couldn't see to the back of it, the smoke was just so thick," Anthony said.

They were forced to crawl on the floor to search the home. That's when they heard Kartes call for help.

"I have arthritis in my legs and I fell and I couldn't move," Kartes said.

With firefighters still on the way the deputies realized they were Kartes' only hope.

"(T)he whole time we were able to see the flames, and we could just see them get bigger and bigger and bigger and she at one point she started making the complaint about feeling the heat, and that's when we kind of kicked it into overdrive," Anthony said.

For six minutes the deputies said they "leapfrogged," taking air breaks outside as they worked to rescue Kartes.

"I just grabbed a hold and started pulling and she just kind of slid right out," Anthony said.


Kartes was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation and released later that night.

"Fearlessness really came into play to save my mom and that's why she's here with us today," said Kartes' son Dustin Plummer.

The deputies said they aren't heroes, it's just part of the job.

Metzger and Anthony have a combined 24 years of experience. This was the first time either of them had to rush into a burning home to save someone.

"I don't feel that there's any title deserved. We happened to be at the right place at the right time and dispatched to the right call," Anthony said.

Plummer plans to submit something to the state to have the deputies recognized.

"The definition of bravery and of selflessness is associated with their names," Plummer said.

Kartes and her son also want to thank the community who they say responded within hours to make sure she had what she needed.


"The community really came together for us. We never expected the amount of support we have received," Plummer said.

No official cause of the fire has been determined, but Kartes believes it was electrical and may have started in the kitchen.

She lost everything in the fire. A GoFundMe has been set up by Plummer to raise funds for housing and necessities.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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