Couple Pulls Elderly Woman from Burning Ill. Home

Aug. 3, 2013
Alton's fire chief is praising rescuers of an 82-year-old woman who called 911 and pulled the victim from her smoke- and flame-filled house Friday morning.

Aug. 03--ALTON -- The city's fire chief is praising rescuers of an 82-year-old woman who called 911 and pulled the victim from her smoke- and flame-filled house Friday morning.

"They are hometown heroes," Alton Fire Chief Bernie Sebold said.

Victim Minnie L. Hutchinson, of the 1800 block of Ervay Avenue, suffered second-degree burns on her arms, upper torso and face. She was in critical condition late Friday at Mercy Hospital's burn unit in Creve Coeur, Mo.

Sebold said Hutchinson was overcome with smoke, but was able to tell firefighters she had been cooking on her stove when a fire ignited. She tried unsuccessfully to put out the flames by herself instead of leaving the house and calling 911, Sebold said.

As the fire and smoke engulfed the 94-year-old house, Hutchinson was unable to exit her home, only making it to the enclosed front porch before she collapsed.

Next-door neighbor Tiffany Wade, 31, said she was taking her trash out to the street for pickup before she left for work. She said she smelled smoke and paused to sniff in a couple directions to determine its source.

She turned around to see her next-door neighbor's house on fire.

"All I saw was smoke coming out of the air conditioner and windows," Wade said. "I grabbed my phone and called 911" at 7:52 a.m.

Wade talked to the dispatcher as she rushed from the street into her house to rouse husband Jerome Clark, 30, and his mother, Anna Clark, 49, who was staying with the family to watch their children.

The Clarks quickly put on their shoes and ran next door to the 1.5-story, gray-sided house to locate Hutchinson, knowing the daughter that lives with her would be at work.

"My husband tried to open the door, but it was hot and the handle broke off," Wade said. The door also was locked. "He threw a brick through the (porch door) window," breaking it so he could get inside.

Jerome Clark said the incoming air cleared the smoke a bit, but it still was so thick he could not see Hutchinson, who had fallen near the door as he entered the porch.

His wife did see the woman.

"I saw her by the window, then I saw her feet," Wade said, yelling to Clark that Hutchinson was just inside the door.

Anna Clark had run to the house with her son and said she heard Hutchinson fall. She said she reached Hutchinson first, and the Clarks pulled her out of the house and away from the smoke and fire.

"I pulled her by her arm, she was so hot to touch and her skin was peeling," Jerome Clark said. His mother said Hutchinson appeared to be unconscious.

The frantic Clarks said Hutchinson banged her head on the bottom step as they pulled her down the stairs. The impact may have forced her to regain consciousness, gasp and take in clean air, Anna Clark said.

"Black smoke just came out of her mouth," she said, still shaken several hours after the rescue. "I can't stop thinking about it, it's overwhelming. It scared me. I'm shaking so bad."

Wade said it only took a few minutes for the firefighters to arrive. The firefighters and paramedics from LifeStar Ambulance Service treated Hutchinson at the scene. An ambulance took Hutchinson to a local hospital before she transferred to Mercy.

Wade said she normally would have the day off work, but because she did have to go to her job Friday, she was up early and taking out the garbage.

"I'm lucky I wasn't off work today or her house would have burned down; I wouldn't have been up to see the smoke," Wade said. Wade and Clark's house was not damaged by the flames or heat from next door.

She said Hutchinson is a friendly, nice woman and the couple and their five children have lived next to her for six or seven years.

"She always gives candy and fruit to the kids," Wade says. "She walks to Schnuck's every day."

When a reporter told Jerome Clark that Sebold considered the family heroes, he was not surprised.

"She doesn't need to go like that," he said. "I feel wonderful, I feel I should be a hero, I saved that woman's life. God was with her, we're her angels."

Sebold said the house did not suffer any structural damage and firefighters were able to extinguish the flames with a hose line within 10 minutes of arrival. Sebold said the fire spread from the kitchen into the dining room and living room, but not upstairs in the 1,544-square-foot home. He said there was smoke and heat damage throughout the house.

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Copyright 2013 - The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.

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