By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
Quick work by an off-duty EMT and the recent re-opening of the hilltop fire station are being credited with possibly saving the life of a woman in a house fire.
Soon after the passage of the six-tenths of a percent city income tax increase Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison announced he had found enough money to re-open the hilltop fire station on 17th Street. That re-opening meant a faster response Tuesday to the second fire in as many days.
Three people survived a blaze at a house on the corner of Grandview and Vinton avenues about 11:30 Tuesday morning.
“The gentleman told me he woke up, and the living room was on fire,” Raison said, as crews continued fighting the fire. “And he grabbed his child and ran out. The girl upstairs was trapped upstairs. Somebody put that short (aluminum) ladder up to the window, about the time the hilltop truck pulled up. It’s not our ladder, but they just used it because it was there. They went up the ladder. She was just inside the window. They grabbed her. She’s in the squad. I talked to her and I think she’s going to be OK.”
The first person on the scene was off-duty Scioto County EMT Sharleen Hemminger.
“I saw the fire and I pulled over and saw the young guy was outside the house holding the baby, running back and forth in the yard, yelling for someone,” Hemminger told the Portsmouth Daily Times. “I asked him if anyone had called 9-1-1 or if anyone was inside. He said his girlfriend was inside the house and couldn’t get out. So I made the call to 9-1-1.”
Hemminger said she spoke to the woman who told her she could not get out of the window. Hemminger said it was at that time the man got an aluminum ladder and put it up to the window.
“We got the screen out of the window, and about the time we were going up the ladder the Portsmouth Fire Department came and assisted us in getting her out the window,” Hemminger said. “I escorted her to safety away from the home.”
Portsmouth Ambulance arrived and took over her care.
Hemminger said she is studying Emergency Paramedic Technology at Shawnee State University, and was on her way to clinicals at Southern Ohio Medical Center.
Raison identified the woman rescued from the window as Kathleen Collins, and the other two occupants as Matthew Owens and his 3-year-old son, Cooper Owens.
“The first in was the hilltop truck, then engine two ladder truck. Now we’ve got engine four from Sciotoville and New Boston down here, too. I’ve got some off-duty guys who saw the smoke and just headed over here to help out,” Raison said.
Raison said the hilltop truck was the first on the scene Monday morning at another fire on Grandview Avenue, this one in the 1500 block. He said a woman had crawled out of a second floor window and onto the porch roof.
“People have questioned me about whether we should open that hilltop station,” Raison said. “Now there’s a lady on Grandview Avenue that has an opinion about that. I asked her, ‘How long were you out on that porch roof?’ and she said, ‘I just climbed out and that truck was here.’”
Raison said the fire department’s quick response to these fires proves that reopening the hilltop station was a smart move.
“Seconds absolutely matter,” Raison said. “And that’s what we’re talking about here — the difference in response time — 30, 60 seconds matter a lot.”
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.