MONTICELLO, AR -- (Special thanks to KLRT Content Partner SEArk Today for video and photos that contributed to this story)
A Monticello man was checking his deer blind in the woods behind his home when he was trapped by flames.
Thankfully, Michael Fritts had his cell phone with a full battery. The 35-minute 911 call he made shows just how closely he came to not surviving the fire had it not been for one dispatcher.
"I was out walking in the woods and all the sudden the fire was circling me," said Fritts to emergency dispatchers.
He said the situation quickly grew out of control.
Fire officials estimate the flames traveled 17 miles per hour reaching the tops of trees.
"She was my guardian angel is the easiest way to say it," he said.
The voice on the other end was Gail Hyatt, a Drew County dispatcher who softly coached Fritts through the emergency.
“The fire's going to take me," Fritts said. "No, no, no," replied Hyatt.
When Fritts outran the flames as long as he could, Hyatt wouldn't let him give up.
"Oh hell, here comes the fire ma'am," you hear him say. "I'm not going to make it."
Hyatt is then heard saying, "Yes you can, get your ass up and go!"
She did not give up until she was able to coordinate with emergency officials to his exact location.
"It was a wake up call," Fritts said. "That's the easiest way to put it."
Not knowing how else to explain why he survived, or how it felt being in the center of those flames, Fritts said it has changed his life.
"I went to church and was saved," he said. "That was one of the biggest wake up calls I needed."
The dispatcher, so calm under such pressure, retires in December.
"All I can really say is, 'Thank you,'" Fritts said. "Because if it wasn't for her, I'd be dead."
On Monday, he will get that chance. Michael will meet Gail in person for the first time.