Quick move saves a life

Dec. 18, 2012 @ 07:41 PM

A Henderson woman is recovering at UNC Burn Center in Chapel Hill following a household fire that did crippling damage to her home and belongings Tuesday morning at Greenway mobile home park.

If not for quick thinking on the part of a neighbor, Gean Allison might not have gotten out at all.

Charissa “C-C” Powell said that it was the Lord who had her up early to let her dog out for a walk, and when she had gotten “Lacey-Mae” back inside at about 5:50 a.m., she turned and saw flames coming out of a window near the front door at Allison’s home.

“I just go where the Lord leads me, and he led me out the door early,” Powell said. “I have arthritis and don’t move fast, but I saw the flames, and boy I moved fast this morning.”

She grabbed her car keys that hang by her front door for a reason: to push the alarm on her car as a loud alert to neighbors, then tossed the keys as she went on a run to the back area at Allison’s.

“I went over and broke a window, yelling for her to come on out,” Powell said. “She said she couldn’t do it, and that’s when I said — and I was probably yelling it — I said oh, yeah you can! It’s not your day to die!”

As a retired nurse, Powell knew the effect that the smoke was having on Allison, and it was getting to her with shortness of breath.

She didn’t know how she, with her arthritis, could get her out, and then a voice inside her head seemed to suggest for her to turn around.

“I turned my back to her, and she grabbed hold to me,” she said.

Powell pulled Allison free through the window, and they both fell out and down to the ground.

“I’m just glad I got her out,” Powell said. “I just can not stand the thought of not getting her out of that room. If I was in the same situation, I would want them to do the same thing for me.”

Vance County Fire Chief Harold Henrich said that the blaze brought firefighters from Watkins, Hicksboro and the Vance department, plus Vance rescue and EMS crews, to the park also known as Edgewood Estates.

“They were on the scene in less than 10 minutes, and they had the fire controlled in less than five minutes,” Henrich said. “It was a single-wide trailer. The lady was asleep on the couch, and the fire started in the area of the couch.”

A smoke alarm sounded, causing Allison to move away from the area. Unfortunately, that meant she ended up further away from a door.

“The fire was right there, and it blocked the exit from the house,” Henrich said. “The fire was contained to the living-room couch area, but there was extensive smoke damage throughout the house.”

Henrich estimated the structure and content damage at about $15,000 to $20,000. EMTs transported Allison to Maria Parham Medical Center, and for precautionary reasons, she was transferred to the Chapel Hill Burn Center.

Powell also received treatment at Maria Parham for some scrapes and shortness of breath, and she was released at about the time Allison was on her way to Chapel Hill.

Greg Tapson, another of Allison’s neighbors, praised Powel’s rescue effort as heroic, and added he is saddened for the level of loss that Allison faces at Christmas time now.
“She only has been there for six weeks or so,” Tapson said. “This is quite a setback for her, to have moved all her belongings in and have so much destroyed by the fire.”

There was no confirmation at press time if the Red Cross, family or other interventions had been arranged on Allison’s behalf for after her release from the hospital.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.