“Someone Cried for Help”: Man Details Rescue of Woman from Burning Chehalis Rural House
By Emily Fitzgerald / [email protected]
When a neighbor’s house caught fire on one of the hottest days in Lewis County history, rural residents of Chehalis rallied to take care of the firefighters and each other.
One neighbor in particular risked his own safety to rescue an occupant trapped in the burning structure on Kirkland Road.
“It probably would have been a fatal blaze without a heroic neighbor who noticed the blaze and ran to help,” Lewis County Fire District 5 wrote in a Facebook post.
When told that firefighters and community members were in awe of his actions, Josh Weinke was unwilling to accept the praise.
“Oh, I don’t know all of that,” he told The Chronicle. “Someone shouted for help and we all know each other.
Weinke, owner of Reliable Residential Construction in Chehalis, sent his workers home early due to the intense heat on Monday and was chilling at home when her teenage daughter arrived just after 2 p.m. to tell him she thought the neighbor’s house was on fire.
“I went straight there,” he said.
Along the way, he met a man named Tom, one of the two elderly occupants of the house, and asked him if anyone was still inside the house. There was: Tom’s wife, Darlene. She had ambulatory issues and was trapped on the couch about 15 feet from the door, unable to leave on her own.
Weinke, pausing briefly to smell the front door, entered.
“It was pretty fiery at the time,” he told The Chronicle.
The smoke was too dense to see through, so he lay down on the ground and started to crawl, hitting the ground as he walked so Darlene would know where he was. Quite quickly, he saw her legs and was able to pull her outside.
Tom was treated for minor injuries and Darlene was taken by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital for treatment of minor burns, but there were no serious injuries.
“They were extremely lucky,” District 5 Chief Dan Mahoney said.
Even though it only took six minutes total for teams to arrive after neighbors called 911 – three minutes and 21 seconds from when 911 sent District 5 – Mahoney said the incident probably would have been a fatal fire if Weike hadn’t stepped in to help him when he did.
Firefighters from District 5 arrived to find “extreme fire conditions which had consumed the house and spread to several outbuildings” as well as grass and natural vegetation around the structure which “was burning badly. uncontrollable, ”according to a Facebook post.
Additional units were called in, Lewis County Fire District 6, Lewis County Fire District 15, Riverside Fire Authority, Department of Natural Resources and American Medical Response all responded to help contain the blaze and treat both injury and heat exhaustion.
“It was an extremely hot fire,” said Mahoney. “We were dying there. Literally.”
Of the 25 staff who responded, five required treatment for heat exhaustion.
The Riverside Fire Authority eventually set up a rehabilitation center on site to help the firefighters stay cool, but it was the neighbors – Fred and Merry Hart, Frank Corbin and his niece – who took care of the first. firefighters. They provided cold drinking water and could be seen pouring cool water over the firefighters.
“They were gems. They were just gems, ”said Mahoney.
The fire completely destroyed three structures on the quarter-acre property and was “very close to eliminating a few more,” Mahoney said, but firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from spreading and contain it on the quarter acre lot.
Crews actively fought the blaze for four to five hours, Mahoney said, and it was fully subdued by 6 p.m.
Teams in District 5 “watch” the fire throughout the night to make sure it is completely extinguished.
Lewis County fire investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, but Mahoney told The Chronicle he most likely started at the back of the house.