Tuesday, July 05, 2016

TOP STORY >> Hero’s quick actions save two

Leader staff writer

A neighbor, who luckily had a tough day and couldn’t get to sleep, thwarted a late night out-of-control grease fire that threatened the lives of two Sherwood residents and an entire apartment building.

The Sherwood Fire Department and city council honored that neighbor, Kyle Johnson, last week for his brave action in the April 28 fire.

“What he did is not something we recommend, but he did everything right and saved those people,” said Sherwood Fire Chief David Teague, “and everyone is grateful for that.

Johnson said he didn’t hesitate once he found out people were still in the apartment. “I had already put the fire out, so it was just the smoke that was an issue and I figured I had a better chance than they did,” referring to the young boy and his bedridden grandmother trapped inside the home.

Johnson, who works at the state fairgrounds, said he was just about ready to lie down about 2:30 in the morning when there was banging on his door. “It put me in a panic for a bit hearing that banging and the screaming,” Johnson said. When he answered the door it was his neighbor. “He was clearly in a panic and was screaming ‘Oh, no. Oh, no,” Johnson said.

According to Teague, the individual was warming up some food on the electric stove top, but had turned on the wrong burner, left the stove unattended and forgot about it until he smelled something burning and saw smoke coming out of the kitchen. The occupant attempted to pick up a flaming pot from the stove and carry it outside. He started to get burned by the flames and dropped the pot in the living room, catching the carpet on fire and partially blocking the only escape route from the apartment.

That’s when he ran out and started banging on doors for help.

Luckily for him Johnson kept a cool head. “I knew the building had four fire extinguishers posted in various places and one was almost outside his neighbor’s door. I grabbed it and knocked the flames down.”

Johnson said it was then that the neighbor told him there were two people (a nephew and a grandmother) in the apartment. “He might have said something earlier to me, but it was in a scream and incoherent,” Johnson said.

Johnson hollered into the apartment for the two to get down on the floor under the smoke and that he was coming in.

The young boy was crying from his bedroom that he was scared. “I got him out first,” Johnson said, and then asked where the grandmother was. I was told she was in a bed in the living room right by the fire.”

The fire chief said had the pot dropped a foot closer it would have caught the elderly woman’s bed on fire very quickly.

Johnson went in and carried her out just as Sherwood police and fire rescue were rolling up to the scene.

In presenting a certificate of appreciation to Johnson, Teague said, “The Sherwood Fire Department wants to recognize Mr. Johnson for his quick thinking, and his bravery in assisting the victims in the apartment. His actions possibly prevented two deaths or serious injuries. Because he acted as he did, heavy property damage and the spreading of the fire to other apartments did not occur.”

The mayor told Johnson, “Thank you for getting involved.”

Johnson took the accolades in stride. “This was not my first time to be in this type of situation. I just did what I needed to do,” he said, adding, “But my mom sure will hang on to the certificate.”

The fire chief told the council that two of the biggest mistakes that exacerbated the fire were the occupant’s attempt to carry the flaming pot outside “Do not attempt this,” Teague said, “it almost always ends badly.” He told the council the best thing to do, if it can be done safely, is to put a lid on the pot to extinguish the fire. “You can also use a fire extinguisher, but never use water on this type of fire.”

The chief also pointed out that the battery had been removed from the smoke alarm a few days earlier. “If the alarm had been energized, it would have gone off and alerted the occupant before the pot burst into flames.”

Teague added that the fire department will install free smoke alarms. “If you need a smoke alarm or a battery for one, call us at 835-0342, and we will arrange to bring one to your house.”