Volunteer firefighters save a life

By Anna Carrera

Published 11/11 2013 06:07PM

Updated 11/12 2013 10:52AM

CISCO -- First responders answered a fire call early Monday morning when a Piatt County woman's house caught fire. They got there just in time to save her life. Dozens of volunteer firefighters rushed to the home in the 1700-block of North Road, just east of Highway 48.  

Many of those volunteers were sound asleep when they got the page early this morning. But one of the first firefighters to the scene says he had just barely crawled into bed after writing a paper for school.

"When we got here, the entire basement was full of flames," said Cisco Fire Chief Ron Weishaar. 

But, those flames didn't stop volunteer firefighters from saving the woman trapped inside.

"They had no idea whether it had burned through the floor somewhere, whether they could fall through the floor," said Weishaar. "The house was absolutely full of smoke. They couldn't see what they were getting into."

One of 40 firefighters was getting into this for the first time.

"I've only been on the fire department for maybe two months," said rookie firefighter Luke Zimmerman.  

Zimmerman just graduated from high school. Now he goes to Parkland College.

"I was actually finishing up a six-page paper that was due the next day and went to bed," said Zimmerman. "Five minutes later, the pager went off."

So, Luke headed out and ended up being one of the first ones there.

"I just went up the stairs and went to the room he said and she was there," said Zimmerman. "Couldn't really see too much. Just crawled on the floor and the training just kicked in."

The fire chief says they knew the homeowner well.

"She's a very lively kind of woman for 83 years old and very involved with social events and so forth in the area," said Weishaar.

They got to her just in time.

"Just a matter of a few minutes and this whole place would have been gone," said Weishaar.

A lot of things are crumbling and charred, but firefighters say they're just glad they were able to help.

"It was kind of scary, but you kind of got to handle it well," said Zimmerman. 

The woman, Pat Ford, wasn't breathing by they time they got her out, but they gave her CPR and now she's on a respirator and expected to be OK. The Cisco Fire Chief says she had a smoke detector, but it didn't have any batteries in it.

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