Howard's trailer was a total loss, according to the incident report. (Photo courtesy Roberta Hatcher)

Buckhannon-Upshur High School senior heroically saves woman from structure fire

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon-Upshur High School senior saved his neighbor from a home fire this past Saturday.

B-UHS senior Ian Strader said he was alerted to a house fire when he heard a neighbor’s smoke alarm Feb. 24 at a residence on Waterloo Road.

“I was just sitting in my house, and I went out to get my MacBook to do some schoolwork when I heard the smoke alarm, and then I looked up and saw smoke,” Strader said. “I called my mom and told her I thought the neighbor’s house was on fire.”

Strader said he approached the house and saw his neighbor, Kimberly Howard, in the hallway.

“I stepped in and helped her step out of the house, and then she asked me if she could have her walker, so I went back in and took three steps, and I realized there was too much smoke and heat coming from the house,” Strader said. “I tried to grab her jacket off the wall, but I couldn’t find it either, so then I asked her to hold onto my shoulders while I held on under her arms and walked her from her house down to her mom’s house because she’s unable to walk without any assistance.”

By the time Strader brought Howard to her mother’s house, the fire department was on their way.

Strader also made sure Howard’s small dog exited the home at the same time they did.

“I knew she wasn’t able to walk, and I knew if she was left in there, she would have probably gotten burns on her and too much smoke inhalation, which would have been really been bad for her because she’s not in very good health anyway,” Strader said. “I wasn’t really thinking of anything – my instinct was to go up there and get her out of there.”

He said the home was already full of smoke by the time he arrived.

“One of the fire chiefs got there first (after Strader), but we were already walking down to Kim’s mom’s house when he got there,” Strader said. “He still ran into the house because he didn’t know I had her out, so I had to yell for him to let him know that she was already out of the house.”

Adrian volunteer firefighter Rick Harlow said Banks District Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Roby and one of his volunteer firefighters were the first on the scene since they live nearby, but they arrived in their own personal vehicles.

“They both just went straight to the scene to try to get her out or see if they could get her out,” Harlow said. “They were trying to go through the back door, and I guess he [Strader] yelled at them to let them know he already got her out of the house.”

Strader said Howard was evaluated by an EMT, but she didn’t seem to have any injuries.

“I got her out of the house as soon as it started, and I went to try to find her walker after I already had her standing on the porch, but after the smoke started picking up, I made sure to get her off the porch and down to the house,” Strader said. “I think she’s been doing well, except for emotionally; she’s pretty scared and hurt.”

The fire occurred at 3156 Waterloo Road, and at the time of writing, the cause of the fire is still undetermined but was not deemed suspicious.

“Between the water, smoke and fire damage, it was deemed a total loss,” Harlow said. “Half of the trailer was on fire by the time we arrived, but we had water on the fire within probably less than a minute of arriving,” Harlow said. “I would say we had everything under control within 15 minutes, and then the rest was just mopping up and making sure there were no more hot spots.”

Harlow called Strader a hero for his efforts.

“To be honest with you, that kid’s a hero — he might not like to hear that, but if he waited until they did get there, I’m not sure they could have reached her with the smoke and everything,” Harlow said. “They were having a hard time getting through the door, but she was already partway through the yard, so he either didn’t think and just reacted, but either way, he did a good thing.”

Strader’s mother, Roberta Hatcher, started a Go Fund Me page to help Howard cover her expenses and replace her belongings that could not be recovered after the fire.

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