Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Quick-thinking Julisa Ramirez, 8, saved her family from tragedy Sunday in the first house fire in Parkdale in more than five years.
The 6 a.m. fire destroyed the single-wide mobile home located at 5426 McIntosh Dr., south of Parkdale.
“She saved all four of us,” said her mother, Shawna McLean. “If it wasn’t for her, we probably would have died in our sleep. She completely took over and got everyone out. I am so proud of her.”
Julisa will receive the department’s first-ever Hero’s Certificate in an assembly at Parkdale Elementary School, where Julisa attends, at 1:45 p.m. Friday.
Falling snow and blowing wind complicated fighting the fire, according to Parkdale Fire Chief Mike McCafferty.
The structure, valued at $60,000, and all contents were lost. When firefighters arrived, the home was engulfed in flames.
But Julisa and her family got out safely, thanks to the second-grader’s actions, according to McCafferty.
“She is a very bright kid,” he said.
“She did exactly what she had been taught to do in case of a fire, and acted very quickly,” continued McCafferty, who will present the award.
McCafferty said Julisa was the first to hear the fire, and she immediately woke her mother.
She smelled smoke and started screaming, ‘Mom, we need to get out, call 911,’ said McCafferty. “She then told her mom, ‘we need to go to our safe spot’.” That safe spot was the family car, which was out of harm’s way.
McLean, Jose Manuel Rivera and their 1-year-old daughter, Nayeli Rivera-McLean, immediately left the house with Julisa.
“We push the safe place idea, and it’s the first thing she told me when I talked to her,” McCafferty said. “I asked her how she knew about it and she said, ‘from you at the school’.” That made me feel pretty good. Then she asked, ‘Did you find my brown teddy bear?’ but I had to tell her it was lost.
“They didn’t have much time to get out,” McCafferty said, noting that there were no injuries to the family or to firefighters.
Parkdale and Wy’East fire district members and Hood River medics responded. The home is owned by Brian Gray.
McCafferty said the apparent cause of the fire was a short in the motor operating a forced air heating unit. He said there were no smoke alarms in the home, The fire also damaged the side of a neighbor’s SUV parked next the house.
McCafferty said, “The wind was blowing air on the fire, and it was ripping.”
McIntosh is the steepest road in the district, he said, and while the response vehicles had no trouble getting up, despite an inch or more of snow, the county took the unusual step of sanding the road so the firefighters could make it safely down, as none of the vehicles were chained.
McCafferty noted that Julisa had learned what she had practiced at school, and the family was right to have a safety plan in place, but added that all that was missing were the smoke detectors.
“We urge people to install them and make sure they are working properly,” he said.
American Red Cross is assisting the family, along with friends and the Parkdale School community.
An account in Shawna McLean’s name has been set up at CenterPointe Bank, and donation barrels for clothes, linens and other needs are in local businesses and at the school. A Facebook page in McLean’s name has also been set up.
The Red Cross paid for the family’s first three nights in a motel, but the family is seeking an extension while looking for a new home.
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The riding lawn mower driven by Norma Cannon overheated and made contact with dry arbor vitae owned by Lee and Norma Curtis, sending more than a dozen of the tightly-packed trees up in flames. The mower, visible at far right, was totaled. No one was injured; neighbors first kept the fire at bay with garden hoses and Westside and Hood River Fire Departments responded and doused the fire before it reached any structures. Westside Fire chief Jim Trammell, in blue shirt, directs firefighters. The video was taken by Capt. Dave Smith of Hood River Fire Department. Enlarge