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Neighbors rescue fire victims

Mon., Nov. 21, 2011

Jeff Bickell, 40, was alerted by his daughters, Katie, 8, left, and Maggie, 12, to the fire at their neighbors’ home. (Mike  Prager)
Jeff Bickell, 40, was alerted by his daughters, Katie, 8, left, and Maggie, 12, to the fire at their neighbors’ home. (Mike Prager)

Mother at window drops girl into waiting arms, then jumps

Jeff Bickell won’t soon forget Sunday morning. That’s when he ran down his North Side street to see his neighbor leaning out of a second-story window, gasping for air, her house on fire and her toddler in her hands.

“I said, ‘Just drop her. Just drop her. I will catch her,’ ” Bickell said.

The mother, 25-year-old Shannon Fry, let go of her 1-year-old girl, allowing her to slide in about 2 feet of snow to the edge of a second-story roof and fall into Bickell’s arms as the fire raged.

“I wasn’t going to drop her,” he said.

Bickell, 40, handed the child to his wife, Brandie Bickell, and ran for a ladder to get Fry out. She didn’t wait. Fry jumped to safety, taking a hard fall to the cold ground.

Another neighbor, Jeremy Driskell, 18, said he heard the fire and ran next door. He found Tanya Gail Pope trapped in a rear room. He used his fist to punch the glass out of a window, and he pulled her to safety.

Spokane authorities are crediting Bickell and Driskell with saving the family from their burning home in the 1300 block of East Carlisle Avenue shortly before 9:30 a.m.

“I had no fear,” Driskell said. “I knew what I had to do, and I had to do it fast.”

Driskell said he tried to get in the front door, but it was locked, so he went around to the back, where he spotted Pope.

Driskell said that after punching out the window, he ripped out the drapery and reached in and grabbed the woman. He pulled her to safety.

“I got a couple of cuts,” he said.

Pope was seriously injured, with burns to her neck and the back of her head and possibly seared breathing passages, the neighbors said. She was described as Fry’s mother.

Pope was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she was listed in serious condition.

Fry and her daughter were treated at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and released, Bickell said.

Bickell, 40, said he was in bed watching television Sunday morning.

His two girls, who were playing outside in the snow, burst into the house yelling, “Their house is on fire! Their house is on fire!”

Bickell jumped out of bed and ran next door in bare feet.

“It happened so fast, I guess I didn’t think about putting shoes on,” he said.

Firefighters took about 30 minutes to bring the fire under control. Damage was extensive inside the home, estimated at $75,000, they said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. The Inland Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross was helping the family with emergency needs, firefighters said.

Driskell said people told him afterward that he was a hero, but he didn’t feel like one.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Driskell said.

Maggie Bickell, 12, who watched the rescue, said, “It was so scary.”

Jeff Bickell said, “I’m not a hero. I’m just somebody who happened to be home.

“I think anybody else would do the same thing.”

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