As fire spread from her garage to her house early Thursday, Berta Faye Rex, 77, got her Labrador retriever, Coal, and her car out of her garage. She stood in her yard at 12:50 a.m. and watched the fire spread. Rex, a prominent civic leader recognized this year for helping the community through United Way, wanted to try to put out the fire herself, so she asked her neighbor, Barbara Black, for a fire extinguisher. Black warned Rex not to try to go back into her house as the firefighters were en route to the home at 11800 Quail Creek Road. Black took Coal to her garage, but Rex was gone by the time she came back. "She said, ‘I need some help.’ I said, ‘OK, let me go get my husband,’ and I woke him up. I grabbed her dog and put him in the garage,” Black said. "She apparently had gone back in the house after I had told her not to go back in the house.” Firefighters found Rex in her kitchen, unconscious but breathing, Battalion Chief Mike Walker said. She explained that she had heard a noise in her garage and found what she thought was a small fire. The fire caused about $154,000 in damage and started near a refrigerator in the garage close to a door into the house. Rex was taken to Integris Baptist Medical Center in critical condition due to smoke inhalation. Rex’s son, a Dallas-based attorney, arrived Thursday and was at the hospital with his mother. Rex also has a son who is a doctor in England, Black said. Rex’s late husband, John Rex, was president of American Fidelity Assurance Co., and was a well-known Oklahoma City philanthropist. Berta Rex received a lifetime achievement award from United Way of Central Oklahoma in January. "It’s our highest honor that includes services the person is involved in beyond the United Way that reaches out to the community,” spokeswoman Erin Brewer said. "She has been a wonderful friend to United Way through the years, and many of our staff feel a close connection.” The fire appears accidental, a fire department spokeswoman said.
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