Quick action by construction workers saves family from fire

Lisa Curtis

Around 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 12, two construction workers laying down cement on Valencia Street smelled smoke and heard cries for help coming from a nearby house. They called 911 and then quickly ran over to the house.

Standing on top of the roof at 709 Valencia Street were the three people whose cries they had heard. Without thinking, the workers grabbed a ladder and guided them down to safety. The three told their rescuers that there were two more family members still in the house.

The construction workers rushed back into the house and found the grandmother at the top of the stairs, unable to find her way down through the smoke-filled air.

One of the workers, Allen Miranda, described the moment as a life or death situation. “She was frightened; she probably thought it was the end of her life,” said Miranda.

Miranda, along with the other worker, Chad Hays, also from H&N Construction, was able to get the woman down to safety. Also in the house, they found a man in a wheelchair trapped near the front door.

By the time the fire department arrived, Hays and Miranda had gotten everyone out of the house.

Miranda doesn’t consider their act to be heroic and said, “Hopefully anyone else would have done the same. We didn’t stop to think about, you can’t hesitate when lives are at stake.”

Hays and Miranda left when the fire department arrived, as Miranda said, “Getting back just in time to finish putting in the cement.”

The Walla Walla Fire Department arrived merely minutes after receiving the workers’ call. They found the grandmother in critical condition from inhaling large amounts of carbon monoxide and rushed her to the hospital in Spokane.

The four remaining family members were in a panic as they believed that there was still a young man trapped inside. The firefighters thoroughly searched the house but were unable to discover anyone inside. It was then that the family realized that the young man, who had gone to the house of a friend the night before, had decided to spend the night at his friend’s house.

The fire started in the basement and consumed one room before the firefighters were able to put it out. There is smoke and heat damage to the basement and the room, but the rest of the house escaped without severe damage. The cause of the fire is currently unknown.

The house had a smoke alarm, but it wasn’t functioning. The two construction workers were critical in rescuing the family.
“We’ve had a large number of fires this year, more than last year,” said Walla Walla Fire Department Lieutenant Nelson.

“There’s been a lot of accidental fires and a few that were set that the police department is currently looking into.”