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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rescue of houseguest starts with watchful kids

Girls alert adults of alarm, man in home

Freida Owens always knew she had good neighbors.

She found out just how good on Sunday when her neighbor’s 13-year-old daughter and a friend heard fire alarms coming from Owens’ East Decatur Avenue home and noticed a man staying at the house hadn’t evacuated.

The girls alerted adults who called 911 and broke through a backdoor to rescue the 74-year-old man, a friend of Owens’ who was in town for medical treatment.

Everyone escaped uninjured, and the house was saved with only about $2,000 worth of damage, according to a release from the Spokane Fire Department.

“They were just wonderful,” Owens said of her helpful neighbors, adding that they had come to her aid other times, but never for anything as serious as a fire.

Neighbor Jennifer Ferry said she is glad her daughter’s friend, Caitlyn Hodges, was outside at the exact moment when the alarms sounded.

“If she wouldn’t have been being a kid, playing outside in the snow, their house would have been done,” Ferry said.

When Hodges and Ferry’s daughter Maddie heard the noise, they told adults and ran to the house.

“I ran to the front door and you couldn’t even see through the windows,” Ferry said.

The one-story house had filled with smoke, coming from a bucket that was on fire near the backdoor.

Ferry’s boyfriend, Eddie Peltier, began beating on the backdoor and windows, finally banging loud enough to wake the man in the basement.

When Peltier broke through the window using a pitchfork, the man was on his way up the stairs. But in between them was the fire, which was spreading to a wall.

Ferry said her boyfriend entered the house and led the man to safety. They were able to help control the flames with fire extinguishers they keep handy at their own house.

“All he could say (to Owens) was, ‘I owe you a backdoor,’ ” Ferry said.

The fire department’s news release listed the cause of the fire as accidental, the result of “discarded smoking materials too close to combustibles.”

Owens, who was on her way home from church when the fire started, said most of the damage to her house is from smoke, and the majority of her belongings survived.

She said the incident made her thankful for her smoke detectors, attentive neighbors and a quick-responding fire department.

“Everything just worked so good,” she said.

The 13-year-olds were modest about their involvement, but both called the situation “scary.”

Next door, the Ferry household now holds fire safety as a top priority.

Peltier, who wasn’t available to comment Monday, is big on safety and was the reason they had the extinguishers at the house, Ferry said.