'Good Samaritans' helped neighbors in need during house fire
"It takes a village to live here."
That's what Jeannine Murrell takes away from a harrowing scene at the house across the street Saturday, June 29.
Murrell and Pamelajean Myers were backing out of their driveway in the 1600 block of Filbert Street early that afternoon when they noticed smoke and flames coming from the front porch opposite their home.
They sprang into action, followed soon by other neighbors and people in the area who saw the smoke. As Murrell called 9-1-1, Myers ran across the street and began pounding on the garage door, then the kitchen window, to alert the elderly couple who lived there. Both were home at the time of the fire, and Myers knew they needed help to get out.
"If we'd waited for the fire department to get them, the firemen even confirmed it — they wouldn't have lived," said Myers.
Carol Peterson was able to get to the garage and open the door. Myers helped her out. Then she went back inside to find Carol's husband, Darryl, who was recovering from foot surgery and couldn't get up on his own. He was reclining in the front room, she said.
"I just knew where he was, because I go over and I help care for them," Myers recalled. "I just kept shouting at him, 'Get up, get up, get up.' And so I pulled him up and laid him over his walker, and then pushed him into the kitchen."
As Murrell and other neighbors looked on, the fast-growing fire had leapt from the porch — it had been sparked by a discarded cigarette — up into the attic space.
"All the flames disappeared up into under the roof area," Murrell said. "I could see that the flames then had moved into the house through … the front window. And then it exploded."
The window's explosion sent shards of plate glass flying, just feet from where Darryl Peterson had been before Myers got to him.
Asked what she was thinking when she was inside the burning house, Myers' response was succinct.
"Nothing," she said. "Just moving."
"In the moment, I wasn't thinking about the danger," Murrell said. "I was thinking about how we take care of it. I don't think it really hit me until later how dangerous it was."
After the near miss with the exploding window, Myers brought Darryl Peterson out through the garage.
Another neighbor showed up with a wheelchair for Carol Peterson and helped her across the street to Murrell and Myers' driveway. Other neighbors came over to check on her, as well as to help Murrell corral the Petersons' little dog, Toto.
"We all played our part," Myers said.
Emergency responders arrived on the scene within minutes, and about 10 minutes after Murrell and Myers noticed the fire, a Forest Grove Fire & Rescue crew was putting water on it.
Matt Johnston, a spokesman for the fire agency, described the blaze as essentially an "exterior fire."
"There wasn't much fire on the inside of the structure," Johnston said.
Nonetheless, the damage was considerable.
Murrell is a Farmers Insurance agent in Cornelius. She said she handled the insurance claim for the Petersons, and the house is considered to be a total loss.
However, the Petersons survived without serious injury. Carol Peterson was treated at the scene by paramedics. Darryl Peterson collapsed in the grass after Myers pulled him from the burning house; he was taken to the hospital by ambulance due to a preexisting condition, she said.
As well as their neighbors who helped out and the emergency crews who arrived quickly to treat the Petersons and keep the fire from spreading, Murrell and Myers give credit to providence.
"It was a God thing," Murrell said.
Murrell and Myers have a home security camera that caught nearly the entire scene on video. It shows a flurry of activity as Murrell, Myers and eventually close to a dozen others rushed to rescue the home's occupants, get them to safety, and attempt to tamp down the flames shooting from the front of the house. By the time firefighters got there, the house had been cleared.
"The firefighters were excellent," Myers said. "The neighbors were all really good about helping and then getting out of the way. … Everybody worked together."
"Nobody asked, 'What's in it for me?' Nobody was like, 'They're not my people,'" Murrell said. "Everybody just did what was right and what was morally correct."
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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