Lifestyle & Human Interest

Firefighters Pull Off Successful Rescue of Beloved Family Member 6 Days After Mudslide


On Jan. 7, a home in Seattle slid off its hillside foundation after unusually heavy rain hit the area, trapping one of the inhabitants, James Fritts, in the kitchen and killing one of the Fritts’ dogs, Lily.

James’ wife, Didi Fritts, was eventually able to make it out, but the Seattle Fire Department had to rescue James and put out a fire that had started near the home after the landslide.

“My mouth and throat were covered, filled with dust,” Didi told KING-TV. “I didn’t know where I was, and I thought he was dead, and I was screaming for him, screaming, and then I heard him say he was alive. He was alive.”

Meanwhile, James was trapped under a refrigerator, waiting for rescue as propane tanks at the back out of the lot caught fire. He was just inches away from Lily and could see she’d been crushed, and he waited there for 45 minutes thinking death was imminent for him, too, until firefighters arrived and used the jaws of life to cut him free.

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“This afternoon firefighters responded to a landslide in the Magnolia neighborhood, which caused a home to partially collapse and slide 15-20 feet off of its foundation,” the Seattle Fire Department shared on Facebook.

“We had reports of an adult male trapped inside, along with a fire involving propane tanks on the back side of the house. Engine 41 from Fire Station 41 in the Magnolia neighborhood arrived first on scene and quickly conducted a size-up of the incident and began to put a strategy in place to conduct a rescue and mitigate the fire simultaneously.”

Even after the man was rescued, though, there was still a problem: The couple’s second dog, Sammy, was unaccounted for. The state of the house was so bad that it was too dangerous to enter and access to the area was closed off, according to KCPQ-TV, making it impossible to continue the search for the pup who was not immediately visible.

Neighbors kept their ears open for any sounds that might indicate that the dog was still alive, but the days continued to pass with no sign or sound and the dog was presumed dead.

Then on Thursday, they heard something and called the fire department.

“We [heard] a little cry this morning, and then didn’t hear anything when the fire department was here with the chainsaws,” neighbor and good friend Remy Olivier told KING-TV.

“We took apart the entire floor, pulled her out and she had just enough room to survive so she wasn’t crushed … I guess she was surviving on rain water the past couple days.”

The Seattle Fire Department shared a video of the rescue, showing the dog being carried from the wrecked home by firefighters.

“Update from last week’s landslide in Magnolia: Earlier this afternoon, firefighters rescued the dog that was unaccounted for during the initial landslide,” the department posted on Facebook.

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“Crews utilized chain saws to cut open a crawl space from the second floor down to the collapsed one below. The dog is in stable condition and was transported to a vet for a full evaluation.”

Didi can be heard crying “My baby! My baby!” in the video as Sammy emerges from the home.

A vet was actually on-scene and able to check Sammy out on the spot, and the dog appeared to be stable and in good spirits.

The couple’s insurance will not cover the damage, so a GoFundMe has been started in the hopes of getting them back on their feet.

“I just want to say thank you to the Seattle Fire Department and the EMTs and my neighbors and all the amazing people,” James said. “We are miracles, and every day is a gift. So, pay it forward and be of service.”

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