Firefighters rescue woman in wheelchair

Staff Writer

Last update: August 02, 2005

DAYTONA BEACH -- Smoke billowed behind Donna DeMarsh as she sat in her front room Monday morning, waiting for help to arrive.

The small grease fire that started in her kitchen had gotten out of control. But there were two stair-steps between her and safety.

"If you're in a wheelchair," she said, "you don't have much chance."

DeMarsh, 72, was frying eggs for breakfast when she spotted flames licking up from under the pan. She said she craned her neck over the burner and began to blow, hoping a little lungpower would put out the small fire. She also poured salt on the flames, which doused the fire on the burner -- but flames still flickered behind the stove.

Realizing she could not put out the fire on her own, she called 911 and went to the front room to wait.

Moments later, Daytona Beach firefighters arrived at DeMarsh's home in the 2300 block of South Peninsula Drive. She asked if she could stay in the house while they extinguished the flames -- but because of the smoke, firefighters persuaded her to allow them to roll her wheelchair out the front door, down the two patio steps to the front walkway.

"When you're on rollers," DeMarsh said, "they can put you anywhere."

Firefighters quickly smothered what was left of the fire and removed the smoke with a large ventilation fan. The damage estimate was $100.

"It could have been a lot worse," said Lt. Gary Thomas, a Daytona Beach firefighter who was at the scene.

As a courtesy, firefighters installed two smoke detectors in DeMarsh's home.

Lt. John King, spokesman for the Daytona Beach Fire Department, said residents should have smoke detectors and checkthem monthly to make sure they're working. He advises replacing the batteries twice a year.

In DeMarsh's kitchen Monday afternoon, the only traces left of the fire that burned her breakfast were soot stains above the stove. DeMarsh, who uses a wheelchair while recovering from an accident, was not injured from the fire.

"I feel very silly about all this," she said. But by calling 911, "I saved my house."