March 18--A mother with two young children, who narrowly escaped from an apartment building fire that left three families homeless in Jay, is crediting a neighbor with saving their lives.
Amanda Rollins, who lived in a third-floor apartment with her fiance, said she and her kids might have been killed Saturday if not for the efforts of Kevin Moras.
"He saved our lives," said Rollins, who was barefoot at the time. "We just barely made it out of there alive."
Assistant Fire Chief Michael Booker said a cigarette left in a plastic pail filled with sand started the fire at 39 Church St. around 12:30 p.m. The cigarette burned through the pail and onto a first-floor porch.
Three families, including six adults, two young children and a baby, lived in the three-story building.
Booker said the fire spread quickly to the upper floors.
"They were lucky to get out alive. The stairway (inside the building) was burned all the way up to the third floor," he said.
Rollins had no idea her home was on fire -- she did not hear smoke alarms -- until Moras ran into her apartment.
"I said, get the (expletive) out of the house," Moras recalled.
Moras scooped up 4-year-old Aunna Hensley -- her fiance's child -- and Rollins carried her son, 5-year-old Daemion Rollins, down the main stairwell. The children had been watching a movie in their bedroom while Rollins had been in her own bedroom.
Moras, with the girl in his arms, told Aunna to hold her breath. He said the stairwell was filled with smoke.
"The kids were screaming and there was smoke in the hallway," Rollins said.
As they rushed down the stairs, Rollins said a large glass window on a second-floor porch exploded, sending glass shards flying past them.
They encountered Moras' fiancee, Danielle Patrick, on the stairs. Patrick had her 2-month-old girl, Bailey, wrapped in a blanket to protect the child from the cold.
Patrick was the first tenant to notice smoke while she stood outside the building. Moras was inside, feeding the baby while she took a break. Moras, who works as the grocery manager at Food City in Livermore Falls, had the day off.
When Patrick saw smoke, she went inside to warn Moras and to get her child. Moras stepped outside and saw that the fire had begun to spread.
"By that time, the flames were shooting up to the second floor," Moras said. "I could hear the fire crackling in the walls."
He called 911 before racing up the stairs to rescue Rollins.
Patrick's parents, Eileen and Matthew Patrick, lived on the first floor and got out safely.
"At that moment I wasn't thinking of being terrified," Moras said Sunday night. "I was thinking about getting everyone out."
Moras said the fire spread much faster than he thought possible.
"It went from the first floor to the third floor in no more than minute to a minute and a half," he said.
Rollins and her fiance, Lakota Hensley, had been saving money in hopes of moving into a larger apartment. The $1,000 in cash they had stashed in their apartment burned.
The family will spend the next couple of nights at her mother's home in Canton. But they have no place to live for the long term.
"We lost everything," Rollins said. "I can't get my baby pictures back. It's stuff like that, that hits the hardest."
The American Red Cross found lodging at a motel in Farmington for Moras and Patrick.
They will spend three days there before moving into a vacant apartment at Moras' mother's home.
Hensley, who is employed as a line chef at the nearby Mill Street Cafe, said he still can't believe what happened. He was at work when the fire broke out.
A friend, who happened to be passing by the fire, ran to the restaurant to tell Hensley that his home was on fire.
When Hensley arrived, everyone was outside the building.
"Everyone was crying," he said.
Hensley said Moras saved his family.
"He went back into the building, ran through flames and up the stairs to get my family out. He is a hero. There is no doubt in my mind," Hensley said.
More than 60 firefighters from six towns responded to the fire.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
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